What is it?
When a person receives poor service, this can affect their ability to receive the help they need. If a person is vulnerable, poor service can have more of an impact.
Why is it important?
It is important that Solicitors can identify vulnerable people. It includes those who lack capacity or have learning or sensory disability, but it can also include those in stressful situations where things like delay, poor communication or mistakes can cause significant stress. Family law is of particular interest to the SRA because of the vulnerability of many of the clients. We would add immigration, crime and services to the elderly to the list of key practice areas.
When considering standards of service, complaints (and particularly trends in complaints) can help the firm understand where clients may be at higher risk of poor service. The Legal Ombudsman has advice on good complaints handling on its website – http://www.legalombudsman.org.
What does the COLP/COFA need to be mindful of?
Ensure that all staff are aware of what could be identified as vulnerable people. If you do not always meet clients face to face, you need to ensure that staff are extra vigilant
Consider vulnerability of clients throughout the case, not just at the outset
Put in place additional steps when clients are vulnerable – for example additional file reviews/supervision and additional meetings/telephone calls with the client.
Complaints procedure – no surprises here, it is vitally important not only to have a proper complaints procedure in place but also that all staff know the procedure.
If you provide Family Law Services – look out for the SRA’s report on vulnerability and family law, due the end of 2016.
By Lisa Charles