Identifying solutions to the growing problem of vulnerability in later life is the aim of a major new initiative which will bring together experts, innovators and groups who work to support vulnerable consumers.
The project, being launched today, will seek to identify and support the development of products and services that will address the challenges faced by ageing consumers at risk of vulnerability due to physical disability, serious illness, dementia or financial exclusion.
Innovating for Ageing is being led by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK), with the support of specialist financial services group Just.
ILC-UK and Just plan to:
- Bring together innovators and designers with groups representing vulnerable consumers;
- Promote better understanding of the issues;
- Identify solutions to specific problems facing vulnerable consumers;
- Organise events and awards to recognise collaboration and new thinking;
- Identify and highlight key lessons and good practice;
- Report back on public policy implications.
David Sinclair, Director of ILC-UK, said he was keen to talk to individuals and organisations keen to participate in the Innovating for Ageing initiative. He said:
“Our ageing society is a driver for increasing levels of vulnerability – more people with dementia, with sight and hearing loss, and multiple long-term health conditions, for example.
“This project aims to seek out technological and policy innovations and solutions, with an aim to removing barriers and ultimately rethinking the products and services that are available on the market.”
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said that research by the Financial Conduct Authority suggests that half of UK consumers – more than 25 million people – currently show “one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability”, indicating the scale of the issue.
“The FCA is calling on industry to lead the way in delivering better products and services,” he said. “This project will be a rallying point for those seeking to respond to the challenges set by FCA and to address the issues vulnerable consumers face, so that they are better treated and get better outcomes when interacting with the market.”
The launch responds to increasing scrutiny of how financial services companies are addressing vulnerability. The FCA has argued the market “is not serving many consumers in vulnerable circumstances consistently or well” and that “customers in vulnerable circumstances are being let down”.
Innovating for Ageing also aims to respond to the vision set out in by the FCA in its recent Our Future Approach to Consumers document, which calls on the financial services industry to better support vulnerable customers. It said it wants to see:
- Consumers that are enabled to buy the products and services they need because the environment in which they are sold is clear, fair and not misleading, with a good choice architecture;
- High-quality, good value products and services that meet consumers’ needs;
- Inclusion – where everyone is able to access the financial products they need and the needs of vulnerable consumers are taken into account;
- Protection – consumers are appropriately protected from harm.