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We must be proactive in how the state interacts with those with vulnerabilities – Mitchell

30 March, 2017 - by Denise Mitchell TD

Sinn Féin TD and deputy spokesperson for Social Protection Denise Mitchell has said that there is a need to address how both Government Departments and private companies interact with those with vulnerabilities. The Financial Services Ombudsman was before the Petitions Committee last week and questions were raised in relation to how the financial services industry treats those who are elderly or have a disability to name examples.

The TD for Dublin Bay North said:

“Whether it is a Government Department, a private utility company, or a financial institution, we must be conscious of how they treat, and interact with, those suffering a vulnerability of whatever nature.

“It was raised by a member of the Committee that there was evidence of abuse of the vulnerable such as some elderly customers and those with disabilities in the financial services industry. This, of course, can be in many forms and includes how the industry deals with financial abuse.

“Many elderly customers have issues with having online banking forced upon them. However, the ombudsman responded to say that this should not be happening. Another issue was a lack of human interaction. Of all the people making a complaint on a large financial institution to the Ombudsman, only 20% of people had actually spoken directly to a person.

“I have questioned previously how the Department of Social Protection interact with those with vulnerabilities as the Department is basing its model on a sanctions based system. We must be proactive rather than reactive in how state and corporate bodies treat those with vulnerabilities. This may need to be addressed going forward through legislation to ensure protection.” 

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