TEXAS and the importance of vulnerability training in debt collection and enforcement

1 in 2 adults in the UK with debt problems has mental health issues. This shocking statistic underlines how important it is for all in the enforcement and debt collection industry to have robust procedures and training for their enforcement agents.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Money Advice Liaison Group, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and other organisations have asked the Ministry of Justice for mandatory vulnerability training for enforcement agents.

In fact, we would go one step further and say that there should be vulnerability procedures and training in place for all staff, not just those “on the road”.

Losing the “bailiff” bad name

As with many industries, there is a minority of enforcement agents who embrace bad practice and earn the “bailiff” industry a bad name.

Fortunately, the majority are well-versed in working with vulnerable debtors, particularly those with mental health issues. however, training is not a one-off process and it is important to refresh and extend enforcement agents’ skills and ability to recognise vulnerability.

Enforcement and vulnerability

The law does not prevent enforcement against vulnerable debtors, but it must be done in a fair and appropriate manner. This is where the importance of high quality training comes to the fore.

In 2010, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Money Advice Trust published a paper entitled “Debt collection and mental health: ten steps to improve recovery”. The ten steps they advised were:

  1. Deal with disclosure: a basic drill
  2. Encourage disclosure, improve recovery rates using TEXAS (see below for details)
  3. Include mental health in organisational policies
  4. Give staff the skills to deliver these policies
  5. Make informed consent a ‘standard practice’
  6. Use your specialist team or staff member
  7. Improve monitoring
  8. Use medical evidence to aid decision-making
  9. Work with third parties
  10. Focus on sustainability and quality

You can read the full report here.

TEXAS

TEXAS is a structured five-step approach to working with vulnerable debtors, which is embedded in our training and procedures. The steps are:

T – thank the debtor

E – explain how their information will be used

X – explicit consent to the use of their data

A – ask three key questions

  1. Does your mental health problem make it difficult to repay your debt? If so, how?
  2. Does your mental health problem affect your ability to deal or communicate with us? If so, how?
  3. Does anyone need to help you manage your finances such as a carer or relative? If so, how?

S – signpost to internal or external help, where this is appropriate

HCE Group’s vulnerability and mental health training

When developing our courses, which are open to all enforcement agents, we took guidance from the Money Advice Trust and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. You can read more about our vulnerability training courses here.

We mentioned some weeks ago that HCE Group launched a level 3 module on vulnerability and mental health, forming part of the new level 3 course on taking control of goods. Our L3 vulnerability was also awarded the Quality Mark by Agored Cymru in February.

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