Helping customers with mental health problems
written by Brian Mairs on 07/12/2010
Every 30 seconds somebody with a mental health problem contacts a bank. That statistic - is maybe a little less surprising when you consider that at some point in their lives, one person in every four will face mental problems.
But this presents obvious problems, both for customers and their banks. What if the customer does not disclose that there is an issue (which is of course their right)? What measures can bank staff take to find out whether mental health is a consideration?
A new report launched today at the BBA’s Debt and Mental Health seminar set out the scale of the problem – and some actions the banks might usefully take to ensure customers with mental health problems are correctly identified and helped.
Debt Collection and Mental Health is a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists based on a national survey of 1,270 frontline collections staff. These are the people who contact bank customers in financial difficulties to discuss missed payments.
The dilemma is obvious: banks need to collect what is owed to them, but they need to ensure they are dealing with their customers responsibly. They need to avoid stigmatising their customers at a sensitive and vulnerable time, but they and the customer would also benefit from being able to identify and record the mental health problem for the purposes of responsible collections activity..
The report outlines 10 recommendations for banks, as well as a basic five-point drill for frontline staff to ensure customers get the help they need. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is now developing a training programme for bank staff, with initial funding from the BBA and other trade associations, to embed the lessons from this research into banks’ practices.
The BBA has also recently published guides on banking to help the families and carers of people who lack the capacity to make decisions. The guides set out the banking options available, including powers of attorney. You can download these guides at http://www.bba.org.uk/publications/leaflets.