“VRS”, enabling an individual’s vulnerability issues to be handled sensitively and professionally.
The Vulnerability Registration Service (‘VRS’) has been developed to help vulnerable consumers protect themselves against the financial, social and very personal hardship suffered as a result of debt and financial problems.
The VRS is independent of any other database provider or credit reference agency. Its sole purpose is to protect consumers and provide organisations with a tool to complement their regulatory and social responsibilities around dealing with vulnerable people at a particular point in their lives. It does not replace an organisation’s responsibilities for identifying and counselling vulnerable consumers, but provides a ‘decision agnostic’ platform for consumers and the organisations they deal with as an additional safeguard for consumers during their period of vulnerability.
The VRS recognises the many forms of consumer vulnerability, including that of mental health or incapacity (half of those in debt crisis have a mental health problem*) and provides a single reference point for consumers and organisations participating in the VRS, enabling an individual’s vulnerability issues to be handled sensitively and professionally.
Whilst most organisations are handling vulnerable cases as best they can, it invariably tends to always be after the event and this is where detriment can come in. Many common vulnerable scenarios are clear and obvious, for example; the death of a loved one, divorce, being made jobless or homeless or in suffering a life-threatening disease, these are vulnerable situations that we can all recognise. In many cases where people experience vulnerable situations they will also suffer a financial shock, this is separate to the emotional outcome. It is well recognised that mental health problems can cause severe debt, and severe debt can cause mental health problems.
There are many less well known vulnerable scenarios that many people will not have heard of and whilst not wishing to begin to describe or prioritise each one, one that particularly rankles is financial abuse whereby one partner financially abuses the other by using their partner’s identity and having access to banking details fraudulently obtains credit or goods and leaves the debt to the abused partner. Partner intimidation and financial abuse is without doubt an awful situation to find oneself in, magnified if children are present.
Pro-active solutions that can help prevent vulnerable situations from the outset are what is needed and needed now. It is encouraging to see that from the Government, including the Prime Minister, the Financial Conduct Authority, mental health organisations, practitioners and the many charitable organisations and groups that the vulnerability issue is being raised and given more prominence. All businesses across all sectors need to start stepping up to the Vulnerability challenge.