DEMSA, the Debt Managers Standards Association, has welcomed the publication today of a new guide for advice agencies on treating clients in vulnerable situations fairly. Launched by the Money Advice Trust, the guide aims to help all advice agencies better support their advisers in this area. Representing more than 40 debt advice providers and debt management firms, DEMSA was directly involved in the compilation of the guide and in the supply of relevant case studies.
Kevin Still, Chief Executive of DEMSA said: “It is crucial that the most vulnerable facing unmanageable debts are given the best possible support, wherever they turn for help. And this new guide from the Money Advice Trust provides valuable best practice for debt advisers and frontline staff.
“DEMSA members provide regulated debt advice to tens of thousands of indebted consumers both when first seeking advice and during the course of their managed debt solution. A number of these individuals will also be dealing with mental health or critical illness issues. The need for constant engagement and the identification of vulnerability are key challenges for our members, especially if the indebted consumer is identified as particularly vulnerable. Our members recognise the value in working with specialist partners and agencies where additional support is required.
“The transfer of consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority has already driven up standards of debt advice with a clear focus on assessing the affordability, suitability and sustainability of different debt solutions as well as ensuring that indebted consumers are aware of all their options in order to make an informed choice. And for those individuals that are identified as vulnerable, it is particularly important that they are given the support and confidence that their needs are being properly addressed in whatever debt solution is proposed.
“We will be discussing the guide in detail at our Annual Conference later this week. With around 150 debt advisers and representatives from the consumer credit industry expected to attend, it will provide the ideal forum to discuss the challenges of helping vulnerable individuals in financial hardship. Training and competency around identifying and dealing with vulnerability are high on the agenda with Colin Trend and Chris Fitch running workshops in the morning and afternoon sessions with contributions from creditors.”
The publication, entitled Vulnerability: a guide for advice agencies – 12 steps for treating clients in vulnerable situations fairly, was written by vulnerability experts Chris Fitch and Colin Trend, and funded by the Money Advice Trust. The guide has the support of StepChange Debt Charity, Christians Against Poverty, the Money Advice Service, Toynbee Hall, Money Advice Scotland, Advice UK, DEMSA and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
For more information on the guidance see www.moneyadvicetrust.org