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One in four solicitors receiving SBA funding have poor mental health

Poor health and financial problems linked in a vicious circle

26 April 2017

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One in four practitioners who received funding from the Solicitors Benevolent Association in 2016 reported poor mental health, new data from the charity shows.

The SBA’s first report on the demographics of its beneficiaries found poor mental health was the single largest health issue for solicitors, former solicitors, and their family members last year after reviewing a sample of 167 approved applications for funding.

Depression, anxiety, and PTSD were all cited by solicitors, with the latter in some cases attributed to personal experiences of childhood sexual abuse or domestic abuse during adulthood.

The other major health challenge beneficiaries faced was a sudden diagnosis of and treatment for cancer (12 per cent), either for themselves or their spouse.

‘There is no doubt that, for many of our beneficiaries, poor mental health and difficulties with personal finances are linked in a vicious circle,’ Tim Martin, SBA’s chief executive, told Solicitors Journal. ‘Being under financial stress is harmful to mental health. If you have mental health problems, it’s much harder to manage money. Fortunately, SBA is in a good position to be able to help when people are finding it hardest to cope.’

A total of £1,159,700 was paid out to the 167 applicants through last year. Some 41 per cent of the group were approaching SBA for the first time, a substantial increase in the number seeking help for personal financial hardship and support with career transition.

Two-thirds of all the beneficiaries were under the age of 60 despite a widely held perception that SBA is used primarily to fund retired members of the profession and their dependent spouses (usually widows). The average age was 56, with nearly one-third (31 per cent) aged 51 to 60.

More than half of the solicitors who received SBA funding in 2016 were either sole practitioners (34 per cent) or had worked for small firms (18 per cent). One-fifth were from larger or City firms.

More than half of the sample were female (52 per cent). Meanwhile, 78 per cent identified as white British and 17 per cent identified as BAME. Beneficiaries lived predominantly in London (19 per cent), the South East (15 per cent), the South West (17 per cent), and the North West (14 per cent).

Applications came from solicitors practising in property (14 per cent), criminal (11 per cent), civil litigation (9 per cent), family (9 per cent), personal injury (8 per cent), and housing law (6 per cent). High street practitioners or solicitors whose expertise stretched across a range of specialist areas were the largest group (20 per cent).

‘While it’s critically important to maintain the absolute confidentiality of everyone who approaches SBA The Solicitors’ Charity, it’s also clear that we hold a unique set of data about the people who need our help,’ said Martin. ‘Over time, we will be able to monitor and measure any changes in trends and this will enable SBA to continue to meet existing needs as well as identify emerging issues.’

Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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