The Vulnerability Registration Services (VRS) has been formally unveiled as the UK’s first central register for vulnerable people. The launch took place on Wednesday 11th September in central London, at the Royal Society. The event was attended by senior decision-makers from a broad range of industries, including, but not exhaustive of: banks; building societies; debt advice charities; debt purchasers; enforcement agencies; gambling companies; local councils; payday lenders; regulators; and utilities providers.

Attendees heard insightful and thought-provoking speeches from broadcaster Paul Lewis; the CEO of the Consumer Credit Trade Association, Greg Stevens; Director of the Debt Managers Standards Association, Kevin Still; and Director of Christians Against Poverty, Dawn Stobart, following an introduction from Tony Leach, Director of VRS.

The VRS believe passionately that vulnerable consumers have the right to be treated with care and respect in their interactions with businesses and other organisations, particularly when their personal circumstances leave them more prone to financial harm. There was a hugely encouraging response from industry members at the event, who can see the benefits this initiative will bring by helping them treat their customers fairly and compassionately throughout the relationship.

At the launch, the VRS published new survey data, commissioned from ComRes (fieldwork: 4-6 September 2019; sample: 2,009 GB adults), that clearly demonstrates the need for the kind of support the VRS tool provides, and the public desire for more significant action to be taken by businesses. The survey found that two in five GB adults have experienced a life event that left them feeling vulnerable, either financially or socially. It showed that:

  • 54% of the public think businesses should ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be required to identify whether a prospective customer is vulnerable so that they can be better protected against harm;
  • 50% of the public believe that businesses should have more regulatory requirements upon them to identify vulnerable consumers; and
  • Only 15% of the public agree that businesses currently do enough to protect their vulnerable customers.

Payday lenders and gambling companies were particularly identified as business types that should do more to identify vulnerable customers – with, respectively, 58% and 57% of respondents mentioning them.