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Vulnerable Persons Policy

 

An individual who finds it difficult to make an informed decision about the choices offered to them is called a 'vulnerable person'. A vulnerable adult can be anyone over the age of 18, who has a physical or sensory impairment, learning disability or a mental health problem and who may be unable to protect themselves from harm or abuse. Elderly, frail or confused older people are also classed as vulnerable adults.

Special consideration will be taken in the following circumstances:

  • Serious illness/long term sickness
  • Ethnic minorities who cannot understand or speak English
  • Pregnancy or recent birth of a child
  • Recent bereavement
  • Recent unemployment
  • Severe financial difficulties

A person may state their circumstances over the phone, or they could state them in writing. In all cases, staff will be considerate and sympathetic towards vulnerable people. Those in financial difficulty or struggling with their mental health will be directed to relevant organisations to seek help and advice.

Staff are able to request evidence of such vulnerability, if they believe it is necessary. For example, if a debtor advises they have just lost a relative, then a copy of the death certificate can be requested.

Most customers may be regarded as ‘vulnerable’, to some degree, by virtue of their financial circumstances. Of these, some may be, permanently or temporarily, rendered particularly vulnerable by virtue of the fact that they are significantly constrained in terms of their ability to engage appropriately with those pursuing them for the repayment of debts owed.

 Customers with mental health issues and/or with mental capacity limitations (amongst other types of actually or potentially particularly vulnerable individuals) may fall into this category.

 

Debt Breathing Space

The government have introduced a debt respite scheme (breathing space). There are two types of breathing space: a standard breathing space and a mental health crisis breathing space.

A standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt. It gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.

A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment and it has some stronger protections. It lasts as long as the person's mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).

Once we are notified that a debtor is in a breathing space, all action must be stopped immediately until the breathing space ends. For electronic notifications this is the date they are sent. For postal notifications this is 4 working days after it was posted.

A breathing space can only be started by:
  • a debt advice provider who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling
  • a local authority (where they provide debt advice to residents)

Although all applications must be considered, the debt adviser might decide a breathing space is not appropriate for a debtor.

For example, if a person can access funds or income, they might be able to pay their debts with some budgeting help. Another example would be if they already have assets that could easily be sold to clear the debt. In these cases, a breathing space would not be the right solution. A breathing space might also not be appropriate for a someone who can enter a more suitable debt solution straight away, without needing the protections.

 

Mental health crisis breathing space

The debtor must still meet the same criteria and conditions for a standard breathing space, but they must also be receiving mental health crisis treatment at the time that an application is made. A debtor who has had a standard or mental health crisis breathing space in the last 12 months may be eligible for a mental health crisis breathing space.

In addition to the debtor, the following people can apply to a debt adviser on behalf of a debtor for a mental health crisis breathing space:

  • any debtor receiving mental health crisis treatment
  • the debtor’s carer
  • Approved Mental Health Professionals
  • care co-ordinators appointed for the debtor
  • mental health nurses
  • social workers
  • independent mental health advocates or mental capacity advocates appointed for the debtor
  • a debtor’s representative

There is no limit to how many times a debtor can enter a mental health crisis breathing space.

Sympathy and compassion should be shown in all cases where a person is clearly struggling, either financially or mentally. You should ask your line manager for advice, if you are unsure how to help. 

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