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Our CEO Helen Lord interviewed on Spotlight

Our very own Helen Lord joined Benjamin Ensor on this week’s episode of Spotlight this week, to talk about Helen’s career and to discuss the findings of a recent survey of UK adults carried out on behalf of the Vulnerability Registration Service.

 

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Just over 2 in 5 vulnerable customers feel unfairly treated by organisations in the last 12 months

Over half of vulnerable customers still spend in excess of two weeks trying to make organisations aware of their vulnerable circumstances

17.7 million Brits* consider themselves vulnerable – 34% of the UK population, with 13.1 million (25%) people saying they have experienced mental health struggles within the last 12 months. In the last year, 9 million (17%) people say they struggled to cope with finances and managing money, and 8.8 million (17%) people have been impacted by a life event such as the breakdown of a relationship, bereavement, or a job loss.

Despite FCA guidance and increased focus on organisations to better identify and treat vulnerable customers, a staggering 41% of people who fall into the FCA’s ‘vulnerable customer’ definition say they have been treated unfairly by organisations such as banks/financial services, utilities, mobile phone providers, housing and local government**. 18% of vulnerable customers have missed payments or gone into arrears and 14% have taken on further borrowing/debt as a result of being vulnerable or falling into vulnerable circumstances within the last 12 months.

These are the findings of a recent survey of 2004 UK adults carried out on behalf of the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS), a not-for-profit company providing the UK’s first central vulnerability database.

Helen Lord, CEO of the Vulnerability Registration Service, said: “These findings should act as a wake-up call. It simply isn’t good enough that so many vulnerable customers feel they are being unfairly treated. One in five (20%) vulnerable customers have continued to receive calls, emails or visits chasing up payments or for debt collection. This is unacceptable when you consider the fact that 31%** of all the UK population have experienced some form of mental distress after being chased by organisations for missed payments or debt.”

Revealing a vulnerability to an organisation isn’t easy
15% of the UK adult population have found it difficult communicating with organisations – speaking on the phone, accessing the Internet or physically visiting branches or outlets. Amongst those experiencing vulnerability, this situation is ever more acute with 57% of vulnerable customers spending more than two weeks*** trying to make organisations aware of their health circumstances.

Individuals with low levels of knowledge and confidence on financial matters, as well as low levels of English language or literacy skills have been impacted the most, with 71% of this group spending over two weeks*** trying to communicate their circumstances to someone in an organisation.

Vulnerable still passed from pillar to post within organisations
When vulnerable customers have informed organisations about a vulnerability, the experiences have been mixed. 29% found it difficult to locate the right person or department to talk to. For 32% of these respondents, they were passed around to different people or simply kept on hold or subjected to automated messages. 37% found it difficult to have to keep repeating their circumstances to different departments within different organisations. However, 29% did say that when they told the organisation about a vulnerability, it was acted upon and they were provided with help and support.

Amongst those that wouldn’t tell an organisation about a vulnerability, either their own or on behalf of someone else, 24% said it was because they didn’t think it would make a difference.

Helen Lord continues: “Disclosing a vulnerability shouldn’t be so hard and the way an organisation responds shouldn’t be such a lottery. It is heartening that there are pockets of good practice but there now needs to be consistency across the board. Behind these statistics are vulnerable individuals who have already reached a limit on how much they can deal with. How is it that they are still being passed from pillar to post, having to explain their vulnerability time and time again or being chased for payments?”

People want organisations to be more proactive in identifying vulnerability
Despite a reluctance on the part of many in making organisations aware of their vulnerability themselves, 63% would share details of their vulnerability if they were asked. Furthermore, 67% of Brits believe organisations should be proactive and carry out checks to identify the vulnerable. 63% of people also agreed that they would complain if they felt that they or a member of their family was unfairly treated because of a vulnerability.

Nearly two in three vulnerable adults (65%) would consider registering with a free service if it took on the task of flagging their circumstances on their behalf to other organisations. 64% would also consider letting details of their vulnerability be shared if it meant that they were better supported and treated fairly.

Helen Lord concludes: “This much is clear from our research – organisations must be more proactive. The only way to identify and protect the vulnerable from these experiences and further harm is to share data about them across sectors, and make checking for vulnerability a standard practice, like credit reference or affordability checks already are. The tools to make this happen already exist. If organisations truly are serious about treating vulnerable customers fairly, it is time to come together and move beyond words and guidance to action.”

For more information on the Vulnerability Registration Service, visit: www.vulnerabilityregistrationservice.co.uk/

*Based on 2019 ONS midyear population estimate figures
**Statistic obtained through combining ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Agree’ answer options
***Statistic combines all answer options over and including ‘for 2-3 weeks’

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Helen Lord interview with Money Marketing Magazine

Money Marketing Magazine interviewed one of our directors Helen Lord for their latest piece on vulnerability. VRS is working with all regulated industries and sectors to help protect vulnerable people across the UK.

Read more about the same – https://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/analysis/do-we-need-a-central-database-for-consumers-in-vulnerable-circumstances/

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IE HUB and Vulnerability Registration Service partner to ensure ongoing support for the vulnerable

Partnership aims to give the vulnerable a voice and help reduce their financial anxiety

IE Hub, an online income and expenditure portal aimed at helping the financially vulnerable take control of their finances, has partnered with the Vulnerability Registration Service, which gives vulnerable people a voice, by enabling them to inform multiple organisations of their vulnerable circumstances.

The partnership means that those people who have found themselves in vulnerable circumstances will actively be made aware at key touchpoints of the ongoing free support they can access. At the same time, it will enable creditors and other organisations to confidently identify where vulnerability exists.

Working with creditors, IE Hub offers simple online affordability assessments for people who have fallen into early or late-stage arrears. According to IE Hub, it is an alternative to the 45 minutes plus process of questioning that comes with setting up reduced payment plans, which can be distressing for people who are already overwhelmed by their circumstances. Many struggle to answer questions on the spot and incorrect information is often given, resulting in poor outcomes. The debt charity, StepChange, reported that on average a person has six unsecured debts, which means that this experience is likely to be repeated with several other creditors.

Mark McELvanney, Sales Director at IE Hub, said: “We work with many people who are in debt as a result of a life event that has had an emotional impact on their ability to manage their finances or a physical issue that has impaired their ability to work. Nearly 70 per cent of our users have told us that they felt anxious when they had to talk to creditors to set up reduced payment plans. Our work takes much of this anxiety away by making it simple, enabling them to do it all online in their own time, and giving them a better understanding of their own finances and a sense of control when they do eventually speak to their creditors.

“But vulnerability doesn’t just stop there. We recognise that they need ongoing support, which is why we are pleased to be partnering with the Vulnerability Registration Service. There is a clear cross over in the work we do and by coming together, we can ensure the vulnerable are being signposted to the right support at every opportunity.”

With 27.7 million adults now displaying characteristics of potential vulnerability according to the FCA, the Vulnerability Registration Service plays a vital role in enabling people to register on its database if they want their vulnerability to be factored in by creditors and other organisations. It takes away the anxiety and distress caused by having to engage with multiple companies to share the same details about their vulnerable circumstances.

Helen Lord, Director, Vulnerability Registration Service, said: “If a person’s vulnerability impacts their ability to manage their bills in one area, it is very likely going to impact them in other areas too. It means that they have to explain their circumstances to multiple organisations, whether it is a bank, the council, a utility company or a telco provider. It can be extremely difficult and distressing for them.

“Both IE Hub and the VRS are committed to ensuring that the vulnerable are not caused further anxiety or harm. By working together we can reach more people at the right time and help ensure that they do not have to go through these experiences.”

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New VRS Aware Product Offered To Aryza Customers Enabling Ongoing Identification Of Vulnerable Customers

Having joined the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS) back in April, Aryza is now offering all lenders using the Aryza Sentinel Loan Management system access to the newest VRS product, VRS Aware.

VRS Aware provides ongoing visibility of vulnerability, rather than a perspective at one point in time, alerting organisations when a vulnerability occurs or changes.

For organisations, being alerted instantly to the fact there’s been a shift in a person’s circumstances can ensure any further communication or action is appropriate and supportive, without causing additional distress.

Financial vulnerability includes individuals in financial distress, with mental health problems, at risk of financial abuse, victims of fraud, and their representatives, such as those with power of attorney.

Paul O’Sullivan, Aryza Lending Division CEO, commented: “We integrated the VRS to enable clients to check their customer base against the VRS database, and identify and better support vulnerable customers.

“In most cases these checks take place at the point of onboarding a new customer, to ensure the product is suitable for them. However, a customer can shift from being ‘OK’ to not being ‘OK’ very quickly, and vice versa. Everyone can go through periods of financial vulnerability. It can occur at any time, and many vulnerabilities are transient – a breakdown of a relationship for example.

“It’s important that lenders are alerted as quickly as possible when the circumstances of their customers change, to avoid causing further stress and we’re confident that the implementation of VRS Aware will ensure a more efficient process allround.”

Helen Lord, Director of The Vulnerability Registration Service continued: “The VRS is the UK’s first and only central vulnerability database. It provides people with a single place to register their vulnerable status. The number of people registering with us has grown rapidly over the past year. It is very clear that people want their service providers to know about their vulnerable circumstances, but they don’t want to keep having the same difficult conversation about their vulnerability with multiple providers.

“VRS Aware enables organisations to be proactive and offer the right support at the right time when it comes to the complex and changing nature of vulnerability.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of organisations joining the VRS which is a really positive step and we are delighted that our partnership with Aryza will give more organisations access to VRS Aware, and the ability to better identify and support the vulnerable.”

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VRS and Aryza agree vulnerable customer identification partnership

The Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS) and Aryza have agreed on a new vulnerable customer identification partnership.

The agreement means that Aryza is now offering all lenders using the Aryza Sentinel Loan Management system access to the newest VRS product, VRS Aware. VRS Aware provides ongoing visibility of vulnerability, rather than a perspective at one point in time, alerting organisations when a vulnerability occurs or changes.

For organisations, being alerted instantly to the fact there’s been a shift in a person’s circumstances can ensure any further communication or action is appropriate and supportive, without causing additional distress.

Financial vulnerability includes individuals in financial distress, with mental health problems, at risk of financial abuse, victims of fraud, and their representatives, such as those with power of attorney.

Paul O’Sullivan, Aryza Lending Division CEO, said “We integrated the VRS to enable clients to check their customer base against the VRS database, and identify and better support vulnerable customers.”

“In most cases these checks take place at the point of onboarding a new customer, to ensure the product is suitable for them. However, a customer can shift from being ‘OK’ to not being ‘OK’ very quickly, and vice versa. Everyone can go through periods of financial vulnerability. It can occur at any time, and many vulnerabilities are transient – a breakdown of a relationship for example.”

“It’s important that lenders are alerted as quickly as possible when the circumstances of their customers change, to avoid causing further stress and we’re confident that the implementation of VRS Aware will ensure a more efficient process.”

Helen Lord, Director of The Vulnerability Registration Service said “The VRS is the UK’s first and only central vulnerability database. It provides people with a single place to register their vulnerable status. The number of people registering with us has grown rapidly over the past year. It is very clear that people want their service providers to know about their vulnerable circumstances, but they don’t want to keep having the same difficult conversation about their vulnerability with multiple providers.”

“VRS Aware enables organisations to be proactive and offer the right support at the right time when it comes to the complex and changing nature of vulnerability.”

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of organisations joining the VRS which is a really positive step and we are delighted that our partnership with Aryza will give more organisations access to VRS Aware, and the ability to better identify and support the vulnerable.”

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NEW VRS AWARE PRODUCT OFFERED TO ARYZA CUSTOMERS ENABLING ONGOING IDENTIFICATION OF VULNERABLE CUSTOMERS

Having joined the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS) back in April, Aryza is now offering all lenders using the Aryza Sentinel Loan Management system access to the newest VRS product, VRS Aware.

VRS Aware provides ongoing visibility of vulnerability, rather than a perspective at one point in time, alerting organisations when a vulnerability occurs or changes.

For organisations, being alerted instantly to the fact there’s been a shift in a person’s circumstances can ensure any further communication or action is appropriate and supportive, without causing additional distress.

Financial vulnerability includes individuals in financial distress, with mental health problems, at risk of financial abuse, victims of fraud, and their representatives, such as those with power of attorney.

Paul O’Sullivan, Aryza Lending Division CEO, commented:

“We integrated the VRS to enable clients to check their customer base against the VRS database, and identify and better support vulnerable customers.

“In most cases these checks take place at the point of onboarding a new customer, to ensure the product is suitable for them. However, a customer can shift from being ‘OK’ to not being ‘OK’ very quickly, and vice versa. Everyone can go through periods of financial vulnerability. It can occur at any time, and many vulnerabilities are transient – a breakdown of a relationship for example.

“It’s important that lenders are alerted as quickly as possible when the circumstances of their customers change, to avoid causing further stress and we’re confident that the implementation of VRS Aware will ensure a more efficient process allround.”

Helen Lord, Director of The Vulnerability Registration Service continued:

“The VRS is the UK’s first and only central vulnerability database. It provides people with a single place to register their vulnerable status. The number of people registering with us has grown rapidly over the past year. It is very clear that people want their service providers to know about their vulnerable circumstances, but they don’t want to keep having the same difficult conversation about their vulnerability with multiple providers.

“VRS Aware enables organisations to be proactive and offer the right support at the right time when it comes to the complex and changing nature of vulnerability.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of organisations joining the VRS which is a really positive step and we are delighted that our partnership with Aryza will give more organisations access to VRS Aware, and the ability to better identify and support the vulnerable.”

To find out more about Aryza, visit the website, https://www.aryza.com

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ARYZA PARTNER WITH THE VULNERABILITY REGISTRATION SERVICE

Aryza has recently joined the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS), a move that will help consumer lending clients better identify vulnerability and support customers.

The VRS is the UK’s first central vulnerability database and provides people with a single place to register their vulnerable status – completely free of charge.

Financial vulnerability includes individuals in financial distress, with mental health problems, at risk of financial abuse, victims of fraud, and their representatives, such as those with power of attorney.

Through the integration, all lenders using the Aryza Sentinel Loan Management system to support their loan applications will automatically be able to check against the VRS database.

Should a vulnerable customer apply for a loan, the system will automatically flag their status during the origination process and this includes customers at risk of fraud.

Paul O’Sullivan, Aryza Lending Division CEO, commented on the new partnership:

“By integrating with the Vulnerability Registration Service, we can now provide an extra layer of protection to both lenders and consumers – especially at a time when lenders are seeking new and more streamlined ways to keep pace with regulatory changes.

“Not only will this improve operational efficiency for over 200 businesses already using the Aryza Sentinel Loan Management system, it will also allow them to better identify vulnerability and put in place the most appropriate steps in their underwriting process to deliver the best possible outcome.”

Helen Lord, Director of The Vulnerability Registration Service continued:

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen an increase in the number of organisations joining the VRS which is a really positive step for the industry as a whole. As more organisations come together to share data and access our database, the more support vulnerable people will receive.

“Once an organisation has registered as a member, they can check against the database to identify where vulnerability exists in order to reduce debt, financial problems and harm amongst vulnerable customers.”

To find out more about Aryza, visit the website, https://www.aryza.com

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Vulnerability Registration Service features on BBC Radio Scotland to talk about financial abuse

Helen Lord, director of Vulnerability Registration Service, features on BBC Radio Scotland’s latest money podcast ‘Clever About Cash.’ The podcast focussed on financial abuse and discussed the forms it can take.

The VRS can highlight vulnerable individuals who may be suffering from financial abuse to financial organisations such as lenders and service providers.

You can listen to the full podcast ‘Clever About Cash’ on the BBC Sounds app or on iPlayer here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p099jfgy

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One-stop partnership alerts financial service providers to bereaved and vulnerable consumers

Vulnerable consumers dealing with the death of a loved one will receive speedier and fairer treatment from financial service providers following a new partnership by two free nationwide services.

The tie-up between the Vulnerability Registration Service and newly launched end-of-life account closure service Settld, creates a stress-free ‘one-stop’ vulnerability and bereavement facility, which will help banks, utilities, insurers and other service providers to better identify those in difficulty.

The link-up follows recent guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority which aims to improve the way firms treat vulnerable customers and ensure better understanding of the needs of those experiencing negative life events, such as the death of a loved one.

Helen Lord, Director of the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS)
, said: “There are some great synergies between the VRS and Settld – we are both passionate about reducing unnecessary stress and unfair treatment towards those who are already suffering and may be vulnerable. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is devastating enough, but having to explain the same painful situation to multiple organisations can add significant stress. This partnership will make a real difference to those people giving them a safe place to disclose their circumstances just the one time. Through the VRS, service providers can then instantly see that a vulnerability exists for a customer, and put in place appropriate treatments.”

The Vulnerability Registration Service is a ‘not for profit’ organisation that gives people a single place to register their vulnerable status. It includes those in financial distress, perhaps because of a death in the family; those with mental health problems, at risk of financial abuse, victims of fraud and their representatives, such as those with power of attorney. The service is free for them.

When individuals use Settld’s free, online bereavement notification and account closure service, they are invited to declare whether they consider themselves in a vulnerable state – be it financial or emotional.

Under the new partnership with the VRS, their vulnerability can automatically be signalled to financial service providers. That means consumers won’t have to repeat the same difficult conversation with each company.

Settld’s CEO and co-founder Vicky Wilson
said: “When users come to Settld for help in notifying a death, and to close or transfer accounts, we make sure that they only have to say it once and we take over the rest of the process, informing service providers.

“Now that we’ve partnered with the Vulnerability Registration Service, our most vulnerable users will have their status notified to service providers immediately, with those individuals only having to say it once. This means they should receive quicker, fairer treatment from those companies. With VRS, we have created a stress-free, one-stop shop, for the most vulnerable consumers.”

Online startup Settld, removes much of the hassle associated with having to individually contact banks, insurers, mobile and broadband providers, TV subscription services and others, to inform them of the death of a friend or family member. The secure and simple service now has the added benefit of alerting companies to the vulnerability of its users.

Settld and VRS will also signpost users to each other’s websites.

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