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May 20, 2020

Covid-19 taking its toll on SME clients’ mental health

By Joe Pickard

The Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on accountants’ SME clients according to the weekly SME Health Tracker produced by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and The Corporate Finance Network (The CFN).

Asked about their clients’ mental health, 89% of practitioners said their clients have reported feeling more stressed than usual and not sleeping, with 78% stating a worsened mental health condition, 56% unable to cope, and a worrying 11% shared the fact they have had suicidal thoughts.

The weekly poll represents 2,725 firms, representing nearly 3,000 UK SME clients. The poll closed on the afternoon of 19 May.

Other than the pandemic’s impact on mental health, the poll found that 4% of businesses had decided to liquidate, compared to 3% last week.

SMEs’ concerns about accessing cash during lockdown have also increased with 23% saying they will not be able to access cash to last two weeks or more of lockdown compared to 12% last week. Perceptions about trading conditions have also altered, with just 16% saying they think they will be trading normally in the near future compared to 21% a week ago.

For the firms who made a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs) application for their SME clients, 26% have been declined, 10% have been approved and 6% are waiting for a response.

ACCA UK head Claire Bennison said: “It’s important to acknowledge the wider and vital role accountants continue to have in helping small business best navigate life changing choices during this pandemic.

“As the weeks pass, the impact on lives is becoming clearer; as more small business owners decide to liquidate, we’re also seeing a worsening picture of mental health in the small business community. Having someone to speak to at this time is vital, and we know some hard conversations are being had, and will continue for months to come.”


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