The Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) and The UK Cards Association are today launching a new publication – Vulnerability; a guide for debt collection – that will help their members to better identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Both trade associations worked in partnership with the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) to develop this work. During 2016, the research team, led by Chris Fitch, Jamie Evans, and Colin Trend captured the experiences of 1,600 frontline collections and specialist staff from 27 UK lenders and debt collection firms, and used them to develop 21 practical and commercially realistic steps that can now be shared across the credit industry for the benefit of customers, but also adapted for use in sectors as diverse as utilities, telecoms, retail and Government.

The guide describes strategies to help staff deal with specific and often challenging vulnerabilities, such as serious or terminal illness, bereavement, addiction, and mental health issues. The final section provides guidance on developing training programmes and working with partner agencies, and 21 case studies illustrate the difference that appropriate handling can make to a customer in need of a little extra support.

Commenting on the launch, 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. Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection will be a great resource for firms in the credit industry, and will benefit customers by helping ensure prompt and practical help when they need it most.”

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.”

In June, a second report on vulnerability from the same team will look at other parts of the lending markets with the aim of providing further insights into the effective identification and support of vulnerable customers across the full credit lifecycle.

The full guide can be downloaded here.