Government launches debt management vulnerability toolkit

25th August 2021

The Government Debt Management Function has launched a Vulnerability Toolkit which ensures ‘vulnerable’ citizens who are in debt to the public sector are handled with compassion and support by frontline staff.

The new guidance will be accessible to government departments and public bodies, enabling them to identify and assist people whose physical or mental health may affect their ability to repay sums owed to the Government.

The new toolkit is designed to help government departments improve how they identify and support vulnerable customers in debt. The toolkit brings together existing best practice and industry-standard tools to ensure people in debt are treated fairly and appropriately for their circumstances.

The Government says that. by identifying those people who have got into financial trouble due to vulnerabilities, the Toolkit will allow the government to focus on those who are deliberately trying to avoid repaying. Reasons for debt to public-sector creditors include overpayment of benefits, council tax arrears or outstanding fines.

It will equip employees with:

  • Training to handle disclosures of vulnerability
  • A framework for gaining more information about an individual’s circumstances
  • A protocol for supporting people in potentially dangerous situations
  • A protocol for supporting people with mental capacity limitations
  • Resources for supporting people to get out of debt through improved Money Management

Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Agnew, said “This new guide will ensure an individual’s hardship and circumstances are factored into their cases by government bodies.”

“At a time when the country continues on its path to build back better from the pandemic, it’s vitally important we don’t lose sight of the need to not leave anyone behind in the process.”

Commenting on the launch Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust said “The launch of today’s vulnerability toolkit is welcome and could not come at a more important time.  With more and more people struggling to repay debts owed to government even before the impact of Covid-19, this toolkit provides much needed guidance for government departments looking to improve how they support vulnerable customers in debt.”

“Our vulnerability training with creditors has highlighted how Government debt collection has typically lagged behind best practice in other sectors when it comes to supporting vulnerable customers. Through our involvement in the Cabinet Office’s Fairness Group Vulnerability Sub Group, I am encouraged to see government departments commit to improving their approach to debt collection.”

“While this toolkit is a welcome step, all too often we see the negative impact that current practices have on the mental and financial health of people in debt. We hope these changes will be followed by further measures, including through a Government Debt Management Bill – to ensure everyone who owes debt to government is treated fairly and given time to repay in an affordable way.”

The toolkit can be found here.