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New research and intervention project on vulnerability launched by the FLA and The UK Cards Association

The Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) and The UK Cards Association have today announced the launch of a new research project to help their members identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.

The project, to be undertaken by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC), will focus not only on identifying the challenges that front-line and collections staff encounter in their day-to-day dealings with such customers, but also on developing commercially realistic interventions to address these issues.

The project will be led by Chris Fitch, an expert in the field of mental health and debt from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience’s doctoral programme at Kings College, London, and Honorary Research Fellow at PFRC. The project will run for most of 2016, and a report to be published early next year will:

  • Provide insights on the practices and challenges faced by staff when working with customers in vulnerable situations;
  • Develop practical and commercially realistic solutions to these challenges that frontline staff can incorporate into their daily work, that organisations can build into their wider policy and culture, and which will ultimately help identify, engage with and support customers who find themselves in a vulnerable situation;
  • Share these solutions with the wider credit and collections sector in a clear, recognisable, and easy to implement format building upon the earlier successful report Lending, Debt Collection and Mental Health: Twelve Steps for Treating Potentially Vulnerable Customers Fairly;
  • Provide a benchmark where the overall sector and individual firms currently ‘sit’ in relation to their work on vulnerability. This will allow the sector to reflect on the work they have undertaken, as well as providing a means to measure progress.

Fiona Hoyle, Head of Consumer and Mortgage Finance at the Finance and Leasing Association said:

“Our members take the issue of vulnerability very seriously. This research project should complement the material we are already compiling to help FLA members improve staff training and customer outcomes.”

Richard Koch, Head of Policy, The UK Cards Association said:

“It is helpful that the work will be taken forward collaboratively with the industry to develop solutions to emerging problems and recurrent difficulties. Chris Fitch has a record of developing highly practical guidance describing how to translate principles into practical frontline action that benefits the customer, the sector, and wider society.”

Chris Fitch from the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University, added:

“This is more than another initiative on vulnerability. We are going to be engaging with hundreds of frontline staff on the challenges they are dealing with, talking with the industry on the changes they want to see happen, and then working with all stakeholders to develop practical solutions to these challenges. Our aim is to avoid re-stating the obvious, and to instead develop tools which staff can use to help change customers’ lives for the better”.

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