Vulnerability Policy

OUR PROCESS FOR DEALING WITH POTENTIALLY VULNERABLE CONSUMERS 

A person is unable to make a specific decision if they cannot understand information about the decision to be made, cannot retain that information in their mind, cannot use or weigh that information as part of the decision-making process, or cannot communicate their decision.

A person with mental health problems who is in debt is particularly vulnerable due to his (potential):

  • Lack of money management skills
  • A reliance on benefit income
  • Fluctuations in income or inability to work
  • Unmet housing, care or treatment needs
  • Poor communication skills
  • A relationship breakdown

Assessing a person’s mental health is complex but needs to be recognised in early contact and addressed appropriately. If we believe a person may be vulnerable we will ask 3 key questions:

  • Does your mental health affect your financial situations?
  • Does it affect your ability to deal with or communicate with us?
  • Does anyone help you to manage your finances such as a family member?

 

Signs we look out for:                                

  • Do they ask us to speak up or speak more slowly
  • Do they understand what we are saying or do they miss important bits
  • Do they appear confused about what is being offered
  • Do they ask any unrelated questions
  • Do they keep wandering off the point in the discussion and talk about irrelevant things or things that don’t make sense
  • Do they keep repeating themselves
  • Do they take a long time to answer questions or say that someone else deals with these things for me
  • Do they have a language barrier
  • Do they say they don’t understand their statements, a previous phone conversation or recent written correspondence

Steps we take if we believe a consumer may be vulnerable:                

  • We speak slowly, clearly and explain fully
  • We are patient and empathise where appropriate
  • We don’t rush as it may sometimes take the consumer time to get relevant information together such as account details
  • We keep on the subject under discussion
  • We do not make assumptions about a consumer’s needs
  • We clarify understanding at every point and always ask if there is anything else they would like us to explain
  • We ask the consumer to explain to us what they understand the agreement to be
  • We offer alternative types of communication – phone, post, email, in person
  • We do not make assumptions that the person we are dealing with is sighted as they may be unable to read or understand serial numbers or account numbers
  • We do not make assumptions that the person we are talking to can hear everything we say as they may have a hearing impairment
  • We always remember that the person we are speaking to may sometimes be forgetful or overly trusting and believe that a sales representative is always acting in their best interest
  • We understand that some people may be lonely and welcome the opportunity just to talk to someone
  • We give the consumer time to explain their circumstances fully and don’t interrupt or appear impatient
  • We also listen for what is NOT being said for example lack of questions about price, lack of commitment, timing of responses, extended silences
  • We always ask if there is a better time to discuss matters as some people may perform better at different times of the day
  • We ask if there is anyone else they may need to talk to before making the decision

 Prior to forming the contract:        

  • We ensure that the consumer demonstrates that they have an understanding of the decision they need to make, why they need to make it and that they understand the consequences of making, or not making that decision.
  • We ask if they need to discuss the matter with anyone else, or if they would like us to explain anything else, or if there anything else we can do further to help
  • We are always prepared to repeat anything to clarify understanding
  • We do not assume that they fully understand all the implications of the agreement and explicitly and clearly confirm all the important points
  • We suggest that they talk it through with someone else and offer to re-contact them. If appropriate we suggest that a third person could be present

Post Contract:

  • If we identify particular communication needs we store that information so future contacts are handled appropriately
  • We record that we are satisfied that the consumer completely understood everything that was discussed
  • We allow consumers to make a personal declaration about their capabilities or communication needs and store this information
  • Any records that are held are with the full knowledge and consent of the consumer and are deleted when the relationship no longer exists in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

If we identify a person who may be in need of specialist advice which we are unable to offer:

  • We will refer him to or we will seek guidance from an appropriate organisation such as:CABAlzheimers SocietyStepChange
  • Money Advice Trust
  • Mind
  • Age UK
  • Samaritans 

Sources of guidance we refer to:

Equality Act 2010

Mental Capacity Act 2005

CONC 7.9 Contact with customers (incorporating previous OFT Guidance):

Mental Capacity Guidance

Irresponsible Lending Guidance

Debt Management Guidance

MALG Consumers with mental health problems & debt

MALG 12 steps to treating vulnerable consumers fairly