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Dealing with the debts of a vulnerable person

If someone you know is struggling to deal with their debts themselves, we can support them – and you – to help get their debts under control.

This applies if you’re a friend or family member helping someone you know deal with their debts. It also applies if you’re a social worker, support worker or other professional helping a client.

Creditors and advice agencies usually refer to someone who finds it especially hard to deal with their situation as ‘vulnerable’.

If a creditor or other organisation – including us – is aware that someone is potentially vulnerable, they should take extra care to make sure that person receives the same service but is not put at a disadvantage because of their situation.

Who's classed as 'vulnerable'?

There’s no set definition of a ‘vulnerable’ person when it comes to dealing with debts. Anyone who finds it especially hard to deal with their debts because of their situation or their health could be considered vulnerable.

Creditors should also treat vulnerable customers with understanding. Find about about your rights if you are vulnerable.

Someone may be vulnerable and need extra support to deal with their debts if they’re experiencing or have:


  • A recent bereavement
  • Mental health problems
  • Long-term or terminal illness
  • Dementia or brain injury
  • Difficulty in communicating, for example reading or speaking on the phone
  • Learning disability
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Addiction

This list is not exhaustive, and there are many other reasons why someone could find dealing with debts difficult.

Vulnerability may be temporary – someone could struggle now but may find it easier to manage in future.

Additionally, vulnerability may not affect all areas of someone’s life, so for example they may find no problems dealing with other day-to-day activities, but when it comes to dealing with their debts or money, they may find things much harder.

Need help dealing with the debts of a vulnerable person?

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What’s the best way to help a vulnerable person with debts?

There’s no single answer to this because everyone’s situation is different. If you’re helping someone to deal with their debts, the type of help they need will depend on their situation.

Helping someone reduce the stress and worry of problem debts can make a big difference to helping them cope with other issues.

The two most important things to do to help a vulnerable person are:


  • Help them to get in touch with us, either by phone or by helping them complete our online Debt Remedy advice tool. This will give them clear idea of how to deal with their debts
  • Help them to contact all their creditors and let them know they’re struggling with payments. If the person you’re helping agrees, tell the creditors about any other issues and explain that they’re vulnerable. We strongly recommend you do this – creditors are usually a lot more understanding than you might expect if they know someone is genuinely finding it hard to cope. However, they can’t help unless they know

Some other things that may be really helpful to someone dealing with debt include:


  • Agree to let them add your name to their account with us so you can speak to us on their behalf. Consider doing the same thing with their creditors, so you can speak to them if you need to
  • Help them by reading through paperwork
  • Help them get important information together, for example by making a list of all their debts with account numbers, phone numbers and payment amounts

Remember that helping someone with their debts, including giving your name and contact details to their creditors, will not affect your credit rating, and you can’t be made responsible for paying their debts.

How can we help?

You can use our online Debt Remedy tool, or call our Helpline (free from all landlines and mobiles).

You can call us together, or the person you’re helping can set up a password for you to use if you need to call back on your own later. If they can’t speak to us they can sign a ‘letter of authority’ which you can send to us, giving you permission to speak on their behalf.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*This is the average rating of our service based on the StepChange reviews on Feefo by DMP and DRO clients three months into their solution.

© StepChange Debt Charity 2017