Demystifying and identifying vulnerability

In our most recent webinar with UK Finance, we discussed our fundamentally practical approach to helping organisations to identify, understand, and support customers who are vulnerable to detriment, disadvantage, or harm.

From our work on vulnerability with more than 200 companies, it is clear that firms are always keen to help customers in vulnerable situations as much as they can. However, in doing this, firms can often be unsure how to develop a common approach and 'toolkit? for colleagues to provide this help (to reduce the training and operational burden on staff), while recognising that specific and meaningful differences do exist between the vulnerable situations that customers may experience.

In 21 Steps: Vulnerability: A Guide for Debt Collection, frontline staff were asked: In terms of your own skills and confidence, how difficult do you find it to talk about the following issues?

Addiction, mental health and serious physical illness were the key vulnerability topics staff had difficulty discussing with customers. Among these, customers living with addiction need our colleagues to understand the experience and range of effective responses to such scenarios, while customers with mental health problems require us to think clearly and strategically about issues of accessibility and inclusion.

At the same time, a challenge also exists in working with customers who disclose suicidal thoughts or intentions, with the 21 steps research showing that in the last year alone, one in four frontline staff had received a customer disclosure of suicide that they seriously believed could end in the customer taking their own life. Consequently, our staff need to be prepared to engage, listen, and carefully gauge their responses, with the aim of keeping the customer as safe as possible.

Achieving a ?common approach? that staff can recall and follow in any situation involving vulnerability is achievable - as we have seen in firms who apply industry-standard protocols, such as TEXAS, IDEA, BRUCE and other model resources.

We also know that as firms progress their work on vulnerability, they want to ensure that select frontline and specialist staff have a more advanced insight into different types of situations and conditions that customers may be experiencing.

With these reasons in mind, the Money Advice Trust and UK Finance have created a practical workshop programme for frontline and specialist staff to help organisations tackle four of the major customer challenges on vulnerability, while also ensuring and optimising colleague personal resilience.

With the option of undertaking all five workshops, choosing a selection to meet needs, or sending different staff to different workshops, these workshops cover the following issues:

·         10 September: Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances

·         01 October: Supporting customers with mental health conditions

·         29 October: Supporting customers with gambling, alcohol and substance addictions

·         11 November: Supporting customers who discuss suicidal thoughts and behaviours

·         12 December: Personal Resilience: How best to look after yourself and others

Critically, each workshop is not only led by our team at the Money Advice Trust, but also brings together the shared experience, expertise, and curiosity of participants in the room.

Importantly each workshop goes beyond simple ?awareness raising? of these key issues, setting them firmly instead within the commercial reality of everyday business, and exploring the range of practical responses and strategies that organisations can put into place.

Drawing on evidence and materials that illustrate the experiences of people living in vulnerable situations, the workshops provide participants with the knowledge, skills, and common tools to tackle any vulnerable situation, as well as the additional insights and strategies to address the major challenges presented by customer vulnerability.

To find out more about the Vulnerability Focus workshops, click here, or contact us at:

Vulnerability Focus Series, 10 September to 12 December 2019

Identifying indicators of vulnerability is a key challenge - your customers could be experiencing a wide range of vulnerable circumstances including mental health problems, addictions, or considering suicide. UK Finance and the Money Advice Trust have launched a programme of five workshops to help frontline staff with practical support, tools and processes so that they are better able to communicate and support your customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Learn more Read more