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12-step guide for lenders on treating vulnerable customers fairly

​Lenders are being urged to ask themselves 12 questions on how they treat potentially vulnerable customers, as the industry, Money Advice Trust and Royal College of Psychiatrists launch updated guidance on lending, mental health and vulnerability.


The organisations hope that lenders will use the new 12-step guidance – expanded to cover vulnerability more widely, and not just mental health – to improve their practices.  The move comes at a time when the Financial Conduct Authority is paying increasing attention to the treatment of vulnerable consumers, with a new report expected in February.


Research has shown that a typical member of collections staff will be told about customers with mental health problems 60 times a year(1), with twice as many customers again not disclosing their condition due to worry and fear(2).


The work builds on progress made by the industry since the publication of landmark research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Money Advice Trust on debt and mental health in 2010.  Since then, a mental health training and intervention programme run by the two organisations has benefited more than 2,000 frontline creditor staff. 


Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said:


“The industry has come a long way since we produced our first report in 2010, and we hope that lenders will use the new 12-step guidance to continue to improve.  All customers have a right to expect lenders to treat them fairly and sensitively, and from a position of knowledge and understanding.  This could be a real success story for the industry, at a time when vulnerability is moving higher and higher up the agenda.”


Chris Fitch, Research Fellow at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:


“Mental health is no longer a taboo subject for conversation in financial services, but the job is far from done.  New issues in this area have emerged in the last four years, and will continue to do so.  We need to make sure that practice keeps up to date.  By following the new 12-step guidance, lenders have a real opportunity ensure they are doing everything they can to give potentially vulnerable consumers the fair treatment they deserve.”


For more information on training available see (for vulnerability) and (for mental health).


(1)    Davey R and Fitch C. (2010). Debt collection and mental health: ten steps to improve recovery (link)


(2)    Mind (2008). In the Red: Debt and Mental Health (link)

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