Sheff Media Ltd t/a sunbeds.com is committed to ensuring that the operations of its Staff and AR’s/Network Firms do not have any negative impact upon vulnerable clients
For the purpose of this policy vulnerable clients are customers and potential customer whose ability or circumstances requires us to take additional precautions in the way that we sell and provide our goods and services in order to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in any way
A Vulnerable customer could be considered to be anyone who by virtue of their health, age or circumstances may be:
- Unable to prioritise their own needs realistically and objectively
- Unable to fully understand the risks, costs or implications of any advice provided
- Unable to assess information in the usual format
- Easily influenced
- Unable to fully consider any advice given and if it is suitable for them
The cause of vulnerability may be temporary or may be permanent in nature and the degree of vulnerability will vary widely. The following list identifies characteristics of persons who could be considered vulnerable;
A person with a disability is not necessarily vulnerable for the purposes of this Policy. However, where the disability affects the person’s ability to deal with their financial affairs they should be considered to be vulnerable.
Persons with Mental Impairment or Learning Difficulties
If it is evident that the customer has mental impairment or learning difficulties, they should be considered to be vulnerable.
Persons Experiencing Serious Illness, including Mental Illness
Where the customer (or the customer’s partner) appears to be suffering from any condition which is serious or life threatening they could be considered to be vulnerable.
Persons receiving Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit (or where a benefit application has been made but not yet determined)
Those on Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit are considered to be vulnerable for the purpose of this Policy as they are living on a subsistence level benefit.
Unemployment does not automatically mean the debtor is vulnerable. For example a person may have received a substantial redundancy payment and be financial secure in the short-term. However, loss of employment may result in serious financial difficulties if a person is suddenly unable to meet their existing financial commitments.
A person who has recently become unemployed after a long period of employment may be unfamiliar with processes for claiming benefits and may need additional assistance to understand their entitlements.
A Person who has Difficulty Understanding English
Where a person does not understand either spoken or written English they should be considered to be vulnerable, particularly if they do not have support from family members who can speak and read English. Appropriate translations should be provided where necessary.
An elderly person is not necessarily vulnerable and many elderly people are financially secure and both mentally and physically healthy. However, some elderly people are frail, confused, ill, and living on fixed and limited incomes and, therefore, are considered to be vulnerable.
A Person Recently Bereaved
A person suffering the recent bereavement of a close relative could be considered to be a vulnerable person.
A lone parent is not necessarily a vulnerable person and it is recognised that some lone parents are financially secure. However, lone parents, and in particular those with very young children, may have difficulty in undertaking employment and, therefore, rely on Welfare Benefits.
A person in the later stages of pregnancy may find dealing with serious financial issues stressful, particularly if they are not supported by a partner, or if they are on a low income or benefits. This may be compounded by any additional essential expenditure due to the pregnancy or birth of a child.
A person that has difficulty reading or writing
A person who has difficultly reading or writing should usually be regarded as vulnerable because they will have difficulty in understanding written notices. People who have difficultly reading or writing may be reluctant to reveal their difficulties and where there is concern that a person has such difficulties the issue should be addressed in a sensitive manner.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive and each case should be considered on an individual basis taking into account all relevant factors. For the purpose of this Policy the key factor in determining that a person should be regarded as vulnerable will be that the circumstances which give rise to the concern that the person is vulnerable affect their ability to deal with their financial affairs.
Where Sheff Media Ltd t/a sunbeds.com encounters a customer, who appears to be vulnerable or indicates that due a vulnerability that are unable to deal with their affairs. You need to establish certain facts to ensure future actions on the account are handled correctly.
Once it is established that there may be a degree of “vulnerability” which has been disclosed and /or potentially identified. The customer should be asked (where appropriate and common sense should prevail in certain circumstances i.e. close family bereavement) if they require further assistance from another person? Based on the answers to this question, will indicate the possible next steps we can take.
Assessing capacity and what to do when a client discloses a mental health issue
Under The Mental Capacity Act 2005 or The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, the message is still the same for circumstances where you suspect a client does not have full mental capacity to make a decision about their financial future.
There is a need to assume the client has capacity unless proven otherwise. In deciding whether the client is unable to make a decision, the following four factors should be considered:
- Does the client understand the information relevant to the decision?
- Can the client retain the information?
- Can the client use or weigh up the information as part of the process of making the decision?
- Can the client communicate their decision (whether by talking, sign language, or any other means)?
It is important you do not just ask yes/no questions. The legislation specifically cites that as bad practice. You need to ask the client more open questions and ask them to replay information back to you. Check they understand a few minutes after the discussion and ask the same questions in a different way to check the response is consistent.
You must also assess whether the client is under any undue pressure from other people. For this reason, your assessment should be done without others present. This might seem unusual but, at this stage, you are simply assessing with the presumption the client does have capacity.
Bringing in others is something you would do once a lack of capacity has been established.
The Data Protection Act requires that the customer has a right of access to the personal information we hold about them and they will be told how their information will be used, stored and shared. Data Protection should not be a reason for information about a customer’s vulnerability not to be recorded.
We should also seek confirmation from the customer that they are happy for us to explicitly note their account with a full outline of what we are being told. In addition an account should be noted detailing out interactions with the customer, ideally recording things in the clients own words.
You should NOT make assumptions on notes and ensure that the needs the customer asks for are recorded rather than assumptions
Refer on where appropriate. It is the responsibility of the medical profession to conduct full assessments and certify whether a client has full mental capacity or not.