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3.2 million young adults now consider themselves vulnerable

• 16-24 year olds most likely to have seen their mental health worsen as a direct result of their vulnerability this year
• Despite FCA highlighting that younger adults are more likely to become vulnerable, they are still struggling the most to communicate their circumstances to organisations
• 2 in 3 vulnerable 16-24 years olds still offered further borrowing, gambling or payday loans

Younger Brits in the UK, aged 16 to 24 year olds, are among those most likely to now consider themselves vulnerable – 48%, compared to 34% of all Brits, according to research by the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS)

The FCA’s Financial Lives findings back in February highlighted that a higher than average proportion of younger Brits had become vulnerable1. Yet this age group is still struggling the most to communicate their vulnerable circumstances to organisations – 28%, compared to 15% of all Brits. 45% of this age group has experienced a deterioration of their mental health this year due to their vulnerable circumstances – compared to 38% of all vulnerable respondents.

Despite their vulnerability, they have found that they can still access increased borrowing, gambling or a payday loan, causing further harm – 48%2 of 16 to 24 year olds have been offered one or more of these options this year.

These are the findings of research carried earlier this year on behalf of the Vulnerability Registration Service. Based on a survey of 2004 Brits, it revealed 16 to 24 year olds are the least likely to feel comfortable talking to their service providers, including banks and financial services, utilities, telcos, local government or housing, about their vulnerable circumstances. This age group, along with those aged 25 to 34, were the most likely of vulnerable respondents to have felt unfairly treated by these organisations – 45% and 46% respectively, compared to 41 percent of all Brits.

The most common experience for these vulnerable young people when trying to tell an organisation about their vulnerable circumstances was being passed around many different people and being placed on hold – 36%. But despite their experiences, they are the least likely to complain – 52% compared to 63% of all adults – and so suffer in silence.

Their experiences have left vulnerable 16 to 24 year olds wary of talking to banks/financial services and utility companies in particular, compared to their older counterparts, with 30% and 34% respectively saying they haven’t revealed their vulnerable circumstance to these providers and do not plan to in the future – compared to 27% and 28% of all adults. The main reason for 16-24 year old Brits is the belief that those organisations would not care (27%).

Younger adults are more likely than any other age group to have a mental or physical health condition or illnesses that has affected their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks – 39%, compared to 27% of all UK adults. They are also far more likely to have suffered from a major life event, such as a bereavement, job loss or relationship breakdown – 26%, compared to 19% of all UK adults.

Along with their 25 to 34 year old counterparts, they are most likely to struggle to cope with a financial or emotional shock – 24% each, compared to 15% overall – and by far the most likely to be impacted by a low level of knowledge and confidence in financial matters, as well as English language or literacy skills – 26%, compared to 12% of all adults.

Helen Lord, CEO of the Vulnerability Registration Service, said: “These experiences of vulnerable young adults are unacceptable and go unchecked as they are the least likely to complain or seek help. Vulnerability is presenting itself among younger adults in greater numbers and in many cases their mental health is being impacted. But they are being missed, because they are still being targeted with offers that will cause them more harm.

“Much more needs to be done to identify and support them early on. External services like the Vulnerability Registration Service is a powerful starting point as it is the only central database that flags known vulnerabilities. And there is an urgent need for better support and training of frontline staff, because it is clear that the current handling of calls from vulnerable young people is causing them more harm.”

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