UK Debt Service

UK Debt Service works with trusted 3rd parties who specialise in helping people to find a solution to overcome problem debt in the general public. Our advisers listen and help customer to explore the options available based on their individual circumstances to see which debt solution are most appropriate.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

The link between mental health and debt has been shown to be at its highest in the mist of the current UK living crisis. Research shows that 1 in 4 people living in the UK who are struggling with debt will also have a mental health issue. Furthermore, people who experience stress from financial issues are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not experience this type of stress. Specifically, during the pandemic, data has shown that 44% of UK adults with mental health problems who fell behind on bills either considered or attempted to take their own life. Factors that can put individuals at risk of becoming suicidal, for example, include if they’re sent threatening or intimidating letters from a lenders, lower income, homeless and unemployment.

At UK Debt Service, our agents on a daily basis speak on the telephone with many vulnerable customers who have a mental health and debt problem. Unfortunately, we do receive calls where customers state suicidal intentions as a result of the financial and mental health burden they are experiencing.

We aim to tackle suicide prevention in many ways:

-We have our own company psychologist who offers innovative mental health and suicide training to all our agents and members of staff.

-We have clear company policies and procedure which guide our agents in how to deal with vulnerable customers and how to conduct a telephone conversation with a customer who declares suicidal intent.

-We provide debriefing sessions by our company psychologist to all our agents who have experienced a conversation on the telephone with a customer who has suicidal intent.

-We have developed an out of office hours chatbot which interacts with customers who visit our website and social media pages during the evening hours which they feel at most vulnerable and anxious. The chatbot reassures customers by getting them booked in with an agent for the following morning, and it also signposts them to blogs, information, services and support which we offer from our website.

-We have collaborated with National Support Network which allows our agents and customers to have access to a support hub and online directory containing carefully-curated information on thousands of external services, including helplines and self-help resources for those with suicidal intent or any mental health and debt problem.

-We have registered with the Vulnerability Registration Service which helps financial services to identify and ensure the fair treatment of vulnerable people.

What are your current priorities?

-To continue to be abreast of legislation, policies, and practices to ensure our staff and documentation is fully update and aligned of all changes and requirements. Attendance of regular suicide awareness events and talk to vulnerable adults’ workshops will be of value and will allow us to continue to develop and deliver our training to staff.

-To develop dedicated mental health and debt support pages on our website which contains useful information on the topic as well as a ‘coping with suicidal thoughts’ booklet and a ‘how to support someone who feels suicidal’ booklet for family and peers.

-To continue working on our new research collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health Research, where we are producing a project funding bid proposal which aims to research and develop key briefings to support people affected by problem debt and significant risk of mental health issues.

-To continue to work with like-minded organisations and individuals.

What challenges are you currently facing?

There needs to be more regulatory guidance by our industry regulators (The Financial Conduct Authority), which equips companies like us to meet people’s needs, whilst reducing suicide and pursuing equality, social justice, and good mental health for all.

The rise in customers either seeking mental health and debt support or presenting in distress has had an impact on our staff in terms of their knowledge and confidence. Therefore, we need to ensure that colleagues, managers and company directors have the awareness and skillset to support customers and one another appropriately, and that they feel supported by the regulators and other financial industry leaders in doing this.