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Do you know someone else’s PIN number?

You may have seen Carers Trust’s recent response to a story from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s finding that half of mental health carers know the PIN number of the person they care for.

Nic from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute talks more about the subject in this excellent guest blog.


What do you do when, to care for someone you love, you have to break the rules? When you’re trying to help, but the computer says no, or the system won’t allow it? Do you agree and step away, or do you bend the rules and help anyway, hoping it’s for the greater good?

When it comes to supporting someone to manage their money, our research has found that many carers find financial systems so inflexible and unhelpful that they’re bending the rules just to help keep the person they care for afloat.

Banks often want to speak to the account holder directly, which is difficult when anxiety stops them making phone calls. Accounts are set up with a single user, one set of permissions, one PIN number, and asking the bank if you can pay the bills on someone else’s behalf is like speaking a foreign language.

Sharing PIN numbers, online banking passwords and contactless cards are just some of the most common workarounds that carers have told us they use. Over half of carers (52%) for someone with a mental health problem know someone else’s PIN number, while almost a quarter (23%) know someone else’s online banking passwords, significantly higher than the wider population.

For many people with mental health problems, as well as other conditions like dementia, the support of a carer can be the difference between being able to manage and slipping into financial difficulty as a result of impulsive spending or lack of financial management. Having access to the bank account of the person they care for, to keep an eye on spending and bills, can be vital for carers of people with mental health problems.

The best worst option

“It does not feel comfortable for me to be pretending that I’m my father, which is effectively what I was doing… But it was the best worst option.”

Though using these workarounds allows them to help, many carers have told us they find it uncomfortable having to use them. In using the PIN numbers and online banking passwords of the person they care for, they are, in effect, pretending to be them and leaving no record of what transactions, or withdrawals they have made.

This can leave both carers and the person they care for in a difficult position down the line, it muddies the waters and creates the potential for both financial abuse and accusations of financial mismanagement.  

What we are calling for

Caring for someone shouldn’t involve having to take on extra financial or legal risk. This is why we’re calling on banks, building societies and utilities companies to recognise the importance of the support carers provide and create systems that allow them to do so. We’re calling on organisations to:

  • Develop a strategic approach to carer and family access to information so there are clear rules across the board about what carers can expect when contacting a bank or building society.
  • Develop simple, flexible and accessible tools for third party access, support and control of customer accounts like read-only access to accounts, notifications of unusual behaviour like large transactions, or delegation so carers can take make some kinds of financial decisions for the person they care for in a transparent way.
  • Improve the Power of Attorney system so it appeals to people with ongoing, fluctuating mental health problems, not just people with deteriorating health conditions.

We want to hear from you

If you care for someone with a mental health problem we want to hear about your experiences, what issues you’ve had or difficulties you’ve faced, and most importantly what you think would help.

Money and Mental Health’s Research Community is at the heart of our work. We need to hear from people with mental health problems and their carers to make sure that we are working towards solutions that make living with and supporting someone with a mental health problem a much better process for all involved.


Guest blog by Nic Murray from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

Find out more about mental health on Carers.org.

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December 20, 2016 Posted by | Mental Health | Leave a comment