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Have Your Say: Lending to vulnerable people


Should financial institutions dealing with vulnerable customers be doing more to encourage them to seek help from their friends, family or advice charities?

Mental health campaigners say some people who do not seek advice are being mis-sold products.

But firms are also under a legal duty not to discriminate against customers who have a mental health problem.

Should financial institutions treat vulnerable customers differently from other customers?

Have you or any relations had difficulty with financial products because of age, a learning disability or mental health problem?

Should customers over a certain age have a friend or relative present when signing a document as a matter of course?


My son who is a paranoid schizophrenic was given a loan over the telephone in May 2008. He had a current account which was overdrawn and it was evident he was not managing and had a poor credit rating. He told the advisor over the phone he was living in supported accommodation, was working in a sheltered workshop and was in receipt of disability allowance. He was also sold accident and sickness protection insurance by the advisor. When he became ill through the stress of his finances he had to leave work, and of course could not claim anything on the insurance, he should not have been sold it as he has had mental illness for 15 years and it constituted a pre-existing condition. I made a complaint and got nowhere.
Sue Theobald, Watford

Once my father was into his eighties, the vultures descended on him. Every trader who met him detected his mental weakness and did their best to fleece him. Postal lotteries, printers, secretarial agencies, plumbers, builders, taxi drivers and banks all set to work with a will to overcharge him tenfold in some cases, or to pay derisory interest on his deposits. After many years dealing with fraudsters at a clearing bank I had little compunction in tearing into them when I took control of his affairs and refused to pay their bills. You referred to a need for the elderly and others to get independent advice, and this should be mandatory for people over 80, as it is for those below the age of majority. The age requirement does not reflect on the individual, but recognises that many in that class (over or under the specified ages) are vulnerable. In the Middle Ages this problem was well known, and many early land grants to the Church show that the donor acted with the assent of his wife and eldest son. This protected the recipient of the land from the charge by the son after his father's death that the land grant had been extracted by unscrupulous clergy from an old man in his dotage.
Ian Maitland, London

Of course very old and vulnerable people should have a trusted friend, relative or similar person present at discussions. My aged aunt ended up being persuaded to hand over 93% of her savings to a bank for them to invest, leaving her only 7% in cash at the age of 84. The interviews with the bank advisers took place with her alone in her bungalow. A later interview took place on a day where she had fallen, and had to be picked up by paramedics after dialling 999. Despite this obvious evidence of the old lady's frailty, the advice was not changed and eventually resulted in her having to borrow money to pay her first month's care home fees. I took the case to the Financial Ombudsman service. They thought the advice given by the bank was suitable for an infirm woman of 84 and said she was an experienced investor despite her having inherited a portfolio and never traded. Financial Services is a minefield for aged or vulnerable people. My aunt trusted her adviser and would have done anything he said. But the bank got it wrong, made mistakes and compensation of £26,000 has eventually been paid. Nothing would have been known of this without my investigation.
Paul Grenet, Banbury

In view of the increasing number - particularly amongst the growing numbers of elderly people - of persons developing dementia, it would be an advantage all round if it was made a matter of course for the elderly to have a relative or friend present when any signing of documentation with financial implications.
Dorothy Knupfer, Manchester

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