This Vulnerable Client Policy is designed to ensure the service we provide to vulnerable clients takes account of their attributes, needs and circumstances and that all staff are aware of and have proper regard for a client’s mental capacity or other vulnerability such as disability, incapacity and duress:

  • When taking instructions, and
  • During the course of the service
This policy sets out:
a)Categories of vulnerable clients
b)Identifying vulnerable clients
c)Identifying the needs of vulnerable clients
d)Responding to vulnerabilities
f)Mental capacity and vulnerable clients g)the steps we will take to monitor this policy h)reporting breaches

Categories of vulnerable clients

There are three broad categories of vulnerable clients:

  • Clients who have capacity to make decisions and provide instructions, but by reason of a range of mental and/or physical disabilities need extra support to access our services and give instructions
  • Clients who lack mental capacity to make decisions and provide instructions, for whom a range of statutory and other safeguards must be followed, and
  • Clients who are vulnerable to undue influence or duress and who may or may not have mental capacity to make decisions and provide instructions

Identifying vulnerable clients

The following factors could indicate a vulnerability:

Advanced age, children and young people Learning disabilities Heavy reliance on family or friends for necessary care or support
Physical disabilities Sensory impairment e.g hearing or sight impairment Long-term alcohol or drug abuse
Cognitive impairment Dementia Exposure to financial abuse
Loss of mental capacity to make relevant decisions Acquired brain injury caused for example by a stroke or head injury Difficulty in accessing and/ or understanding complex information, e.g because of psychological or emotional factors such as stress or bereavement
Mental health issues Communication difficulties, including no or limited speech, English as a foreign language, limited liability to read or write and illiteracy Severe facial or other disfigurement
Experience of domestic violence or sexual abuse Health problems Low income
Low literacy Living alone or in poor living conditions Lone parent
Legal inexperience Release from prison Lack of internet or telephone access
Location Being a carer Threat of harm
Relationship breakdown Loss of income Victim of a crime or accident
Loss of employment Having recently left care Threat of deportation
Concern over access to children Concern over child welfare Bereavement
  • Any one or more of these risk factors may mean the client is vulnerable, and some clients may be affected by more than one factor.
  • Vulnerable clients may need assistance to express their wishes, understand relevant advice and provide you with instructions, or they may lack capacity to make relevant decisions and to give you instructions.

Identifying the needs of vulnerable clients

It is not always easy to identify vulnerability. Some signs may be obvious, while others are hidden and your client may not tell you of any difficulties. You should not feel inhibited about asking for more information. You should tactfully try to identify the needs of your client to find out whether they:

  1. Understand and can act on the information and advice provided, or whether they may need support to do this, e.g from an interpreter, and
  2. Have any other requirements or preferences:
    • For communicating with you
    • In terms of accessing our services, e.g to overcome mobility problems or hearing or sight difficulties; or
    • About how our services are provided, e.g documents written in clear and simple language or information given orally
4. The sooner a client’s vulnerability has been identified, the sooner you can help your client access your services and overcome any disadvantages caused by the particular vulnerability. 5. Carers or family members may also be able to provide helpful information, but in the first instance you should always seek to discuss these matters with the client alone, unless the client lacks capacity to give you instructions. 6. We have included prompts for staff to consider client vulnerabilities in our call sheet prompts. 7. If you identify or suspect a client vulnerability, you should follow the procedures set out in Responding to vulnerabilities below and inform Alev Uzun as soon as possible.

Responding to vulnerabilities

  • The ‘reasonable adjustments’ duty under the Equality Act 2010 means you must anticipate the needs of people with particular types of disability as well as making tailored reasonable adjustments for individuals.
  • Where possible, be flexible with appointment times, duration and location.
  • Written communication, for example client care letters, letters of advice and costs information should be written clearly and free from ‘legal jargon’.
  • The table below gives more examples of the sort of steps we will consider taking where we identify a client vulnerability:
Vulnerability factor Potential response
Client does not speak or understand English Use an interpreter or translator
Client has a physical disability Liaise with Alev Uzun who will ensure appropriate steps are taken in order to accommodate the client’s needs
Client: needs longer to understand what you are explaining has a speech impairment, or is communicating through a third party Allow extra time for phone calls Conduct conversations using the text relay system, where the client has a speech impairment
Client has visual impairment Provide information in large print, Braille, audio, DVD or easy-read format
Client has hearing impairment Provide a sign language interpreter, lip-speaker or deaf-blind communicator Provide a portable induction loop Conduct conversations using the text relay system
Client’s ability to attend the office is impaired by mental health issues Consider visiting client at home, with appropriate safeguards in place
Client has cognitive impairment, particularly affecting memory Provide a digital recorder, Dictaphone or electronic notetaker
Client is dyslexic Provide written text on a coloured rather than white background. The client can advise you if this would be helpful for them and which colours to use

Mental capacity and vulnerable clients

  1. When we think about vulnerable clients, we should also consider mental capacity, i.e the ability to make decisions.
  2. To be able to make a decision means you have mental capacity. These include both day to day decisions and more significant decisions that may have legal consequences, e.g. in situations where the client is:
    • Entering into a contract
    • Bringing legal proceedings
  3. Capacity is decision-specific; a client that has capacity to make a simple decision may not have capacity to make a complex decision or a decision that has significant consequences or carries significant risk.
  4. You must be satisfied that your client has capacity to give you instructions on the matter in question.

Monitoring and review

  • We will review this policy regularly—at least annually.
  • We will provide information and/or training on any changes we make.

Reporting breaches

  • All staff must be aware of and adhere to this policy. 
  • If you notice a breach of this policy, you must inform Alev Uzun.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this policy, do not hesitate to contact Alev Uzun.