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Trade bodies launch guide to support vulnerable customers

The trade bodies have partnered with the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre to develop the guide in which 1,600 frontline collections and specialist staff from 27 UK lenders and debt collection firms were surveyed.

The research team led by Chris Fitch – an expert in the field of mental health and financial services at the University of Bristol – developed 21 practical and commercially realistic steps to help staff deal with issues such as serious or terminal illness, bereavement, addiction and mental health.

Research for the publication found that in the last year one in four frontline staff spoke to at least one customer they seriously believed might kill themselves.

It was also revealed that identifying customers in vulnerable situations was one of the most difficult challenges for frontline and specialist staff, with between 24-33% of them reporting that it isn’t possible to identify someone suffering with either a mental or physical health problem.

Stephen Sklaroff, director general of the FLA, said: “The project has found and described best practice across the credit markets, and the guide suggests a number of practical ways in which staff can identify and cope effectively with often challenging situations.”

Graham Peacop, chief executive at the UK Cards Association, said: “It is positive to see how the industry has moved on since Chris Fitch conducted his original research in 2010.

“However, we are never complacent and this new research will enable our members to continue to develop the support they provide to their staff and to vulnerable customers.”

The guide can be viewed on the FLA website.

In June, the team will release a second report on vulnerability looking at other parts of the lending market.

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