Law firms, chambers, regulators and other legal bodies which sign up to the official British Standard on dealing with vulnerable consumers are to have their commitment celebrated publicly on the website of the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
Yesterday the panel wrote to legal regulators and leading law firms and chambers, urging them to adopt BS 18477, which is designed to help organisations to identify vulnerable consumers and treat them fairly.
It has issued the same challenge to a host of other legal bodies too, including the Legal Services Board, Legal Ombudsman, Claims Management Regulation Unit, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, Legal Services Commission, and Crown Prosecution Service.
The call follows the panel’s research with deaf and hard of hearing consumers which revealed that legal services were often inaccessible to people with hearing loss and highlighted a lack of ‘deaf awareness’ among providers.
Panel chair Elisabeth Davies said its research has uncovered “a lack of awareness among lawyers about the needs of vulnerable groups”.
She continued: “We are asking regulators and firms in the sector to show their commitment to tackling these inequalities by adopting this British Standard.”
In its letter, the panel said it has found the standard to be very helpful in informing its own work. “We anticipate that the approved regulators could use it in many ways. For example, it could be used to help develop and interpret code of conduct provisions relating to vulnerable consumers, assist with consumer engagement and inform the design of risk-based regulatory frameworks. The standard could also be used to help train staff with responsibility for dealing directly with the public.”
Ms Davies called on regulators to help in encouraging law firms and chambers to adopt the standard by leading by example and by helping to raise awareness of the standard. “As part of this effort, we will be creating an area of our website where all those organisations which adopt the standard will be listed.”