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1st Credit deepens understanding of mental health conditions PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 July 2016
1st Credit, one of the UK’s leading independent and ethical debt purchase companies, last week invited specialists to its office to train frontline staff on helping those with mental health issues.

The innovative training programme was co-ordinated by experts from the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline. It was designed to help 1st Credit staff identify customers in vulnerable circumstances and tailor their response to their condition, rather than taking a blanket approach.

While collections professionals are empathetic, 1st Credit recognised that they are not always comfortable asking deeper questions of those with mental health issues. The training will help collections teams determine financial capability so that those who can pay their debts are not unnecessarily delayed from reaching their debt free day.

The issues covered included: how to establish the nature and severity of a customer’s mental health condition, the impact on them, duration of the illness and long-term prognosis. Staff were trained to use the ‘IDEA protocol’: impact, duration, episodes/experience and assistance, taking a ‘whole person’ approach.

Overseen by Colin Trend and Chris Fitch from the Money Advice Trust and clinician Dr Claire Henderson, the session brought together financial and clinical expertise to train staff.

1st Credit chief executive Eddie Nott said: “‘Recovery’ in the financial services sector should mean more than simply getting back what is owed from a customer. It has to involve customers in vulnerable situations being able to re-establish their finances, personal wellbeing, and a sense of hope for the future. Through investing in new training and techniques for all collections staff, 1st Credit is working towards that aim.”

He added: “We wanted to train our staff to understand the impact that different conditions can have on customers and their ability to handle their finances. This granular understanding will enable them to take an individual approach, resulting in a better experience for those in vulnerable situations.”

Chris Fitch, who as well as delivering training for the Money Advice Trust is a research fellow at Bristol University’s Personal Finance Research Centre, said: “We know that mental health and financial difficulties are intertwined. The good news is that improving outcomes for customers with mental health issues has never been higher on the industry’s agenda. The training we deliver is about spreading best practice as far and wide as possible and helping firms to ensure that all customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances, receive the fair and sensitive treatment that they have a right to expect.”

As part of its focus on mental health, this year 1st Credit has also partnered UK mental health charity Sane, raising £1,750 to help reduce the stigma around mental illness.

The results of the training will now be monitored to track the changes in approach and their impact on customers in vulnerable circumstances.

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