A practical approach to advising vulnerable clients

A practical approach to advising vulnerable clients

How can one assess whether a client is vulnerable?

A vulnerable person is anyone aged 18 and over who needs assistance because of mental or other disability, age or illness, is unable to take care of him or herself and is unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.

Munby J defined “vulnerable” in the case of Re SA (vulnerable adult with capacity: marriage)[2005] EWHC 2942 (Fam) as:

“[…] being an adult which includes those who even if not incapacitated by mental disorder or mental illness is or is reasonably believed to be either under constraint or subject to coercion or undue influence or for some other reason deprived of the capacity to make the relevant decision, or disabled from making a free choice or incapacitated or disabled from giving or expressing a real and genuine consent.”

A lawyer cannot identify legally those who are vulnerable. They can only use their common sense, experience and if possible medical advice.

What are the risks if an advisor fails to recognise a client as vulnerable?

Abuse of a vulnerable client goes against a person’s human and civil rights. It can take many forms and the effects can be severe and wide-ranging. It could be:

  1. a single or repeated act causing harm or distress;
  2. failure to provide necessary care or neglect;
  3. physical – hitting, slapping, misuse of medication, restraint;
  4. financial – use of money, bank account, pension, without their consent;
  5. neglect – ignoring medical or physical care needs, failing to get healthcare or social care;
  6. sexual – assault, rape;
  7. psychological – emotional abuse, threats of harm, restraint or abandonment, intimidation;
  8. institutional – taking place in a care home or hospital.

The advisor can do as much as they can to recognise abuse but it must be remembered that we are not healthcare or social services professionals.

What should be your first considerations once a client has been identified as vulnerable?

When working with clients who lack

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