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
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:
- 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
- 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
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
- When we think about vulnerable clients, we should also consider mental capacity, i.e the ability to make decisions.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.