Results announced during Mental Health Week reveal what accountants are hearing from their SME clients

Accountants are taking on the pressures of their SME clients about the impact of Covid-19, reveals the latest weekly ACCA UK and The Corporate Finance Network (The CFN) SME Health Tracker.

Asked about their clients’ mental health, 89% of practitioners say 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 an alarming 11% sharing the fact they’ve had suicidal thoughts.

This week’s poll among an expert panel of accountants representing nearly 3,000 SME clients in the UK reported that 4% of firms had decided to liquidate, compared to 3% last week.

SMEs’ concerns about accessing cash during lockdown have also increased with 23% saying they won’t be able to access cash to last them 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’ll be trading normally in the near future compared to 21% a week ago.

For the firms who made a CBILS application for their SME clients, 26% have been declined, 10% have been approved and 6% are waiting for a response. And as the UK begins to unlock, SMEs say the ability to implement social distancing is the most important concern for them, closely followed by cashflow and possible staff restructures.

And as the UK unlocks, SMEs say the ability to implement social distancing is the most important concern for them, closely followed by cashflow and possible staff restructures.

Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK comments: ‘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.’

Kirsty McGregor, founder of The CFN, and an accountant, adds: ‘The pressures are mounting and this is reflected in what practitioners are hearing from their clients. While the extension to the furlough scheme is to be welcomed, it would be easier for business owners if the flexibility could be brought in before the planned date of 1st August. As businesses make plans to reopen, they need the ability to bring employees back part-time now, and not have to make that difficult decision to make some employees redundant, which is a very stressful decision to make and enact.’

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