Using the BRUCE protocol to identify and support customers with mental capacity limitations

BRUCE iconThe Money Advice Trust’s vulnerability lead Chris Fitch looks at the practice of identifying and supporting customers with mental capacity limitations, and how the Trust’s new e-learning can help.

Lenders have a lot to deal with when it comes to supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances. In many cases frontline staff can come across customers who might exhibit a mental capacity limitation.

As highlighted by our latest guide, ‘Lending and vulnerability: an introductory guide to mental capacity’, customers with mental capacity limitations can experience significant problems with understanding, remembering, and evaluating information about the credit product they are applying for, as well as other difficulties in communicating their decision.

Recent research from the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre, supported by the Finance & Leasing Association and UK Cards Association, found that frontline credit staff encountered customers with a serious difficulty in understanding information (one of four elements in a potential mental capacity limitation) 480 times in a single year (based on a team of 10 frontline staff).

These numbers are important to note because when not identified, mental capacity limitations can result in detriment including borrowing, lending and contracts that result in ‘later downstream’ financial difficulty and problem debt.

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A defining moment for the vulnerability agenda

Chris FitchThe Trust’s Vulnerability Lead Chris Fitch explores concerns over the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) proposed new definition of vulnerability.

Yesterday I was pleased to speak at the Financial Conduct Authority’s event on their Consumer Approach paper – and doubly pleased to be invited to speak twice, at two extremely useful breakout sessions on the regulator’s plans for vulnerable consumers.

In 10 years working with vulnerable consumers, I have never known a greater focus from the financial services industry on this issue. My latest research, co-authored with Colin Trend and Jamie Evans, showed the scale of improvement on mental health, in particular. The Money Advice Trust has now trained more than 11,000 staff in over 160 organisations – and demand for training on this broader range of circumstances, such as serious illness and addictions, is increasing all the time.

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Creditors can do more to support customers with addictions. Here’s how.

Addictions course image sized for BlogThe Trust’s Vulnerability Lead Chris Fitch, looks at the challenge of supporting customers with gambling, alcohol and substance addictions, and how the Trust’s new face-to-face training can help.

I have been talking to creditors about customers in vulnerable circumstances for the last 10 years – and the good news is that there has never been a greater focus on this agenda than there is now. The better news is that this focus is widening all the time.

As Joanna Elson argued on this blog in March, there was a time when vulnerability was synonymous with mental health, but there is ample evidence that this is changing, Creditors are increasingly looking at the full range other vulnerable circumstances – and gambling, alcohol and substance misuse is near the top of this list.

A quick dip into my latest research, co-authored with Colin Trend, shows why this is the case. More than one in four frontline creditor staff (27 percent) report they find it difficult to talk about addictions with customers – more than any other type of vulnerable situation. We found that staff are often confronted with little or no organisational policy to help them with this issue, and are particularly concerned over how customers will react.

That’s a problem – particularly when you consider that nearly one in ten frontline staff (8 percent) and more than one in four specialist staff (28 percent) encounter customers with an addiction ‘most days’ or ‘every day’.

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