Mel McCulloch (50) works in Helpline at PayPlan and takes calls from prospective clients who are looking for help and solutions to their debt problems Like many other PayPlan staff Mel has undergone training regarding vulnerable clients and mental health issues and how to recognise and understand the conditions.

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Mel has experienced depression herself but the training she has received has helped highlight what signs to look out for and how to react towards a client.

“I recently spoke to a gentleman who was in a lot of debt. When I asked him about his employment he told me he was unable to work as he was bi-polar. As I’d done the training I was able to understand the difficulty he had in dealing with money when he was in his manic state and how, during his normal phase, he would reflect on what he’d done and then feel guilty. This in turn would lead to a depressed state.

“I explained that understanding his condition and noting this on his file would ensure that the next advisor he’d deal with would take his condition into consideration. He felt very reassured and thanked me for being so understanding and non-judgemental. As he was slow to provide the information I took my time and reassured him during the call.

“He told me he was trembling but that he felt he’d built up trust with me and that meant a lot as my main aim was for him to feel supported. He said he was in a relatively normal state that day but giving me the information had drained him.

“Because of the information he’d given me I arranged for the next telephone assessment to take place when his wife was home from work so that she could take the call if necessary.

“I always try to sympathise with the client and avoid being patronising. It often means taking extra time and sometimes explaining things more than once.

“I admit I get a lot of satisfaction helping vulnerable clients, whether it is a mental health, physical or any other type of vulnerability, as I see myself as a nurturing type of person. Sometimes I do get emotional after a vulnerable call and on occasions I have needed time out just to get my thoughts together. I also get plenty of support from my manager and my colleagues.

“I’ve noticed that a large number of our clients are vulnerable and maybe this is because we are now asking about it and noting it on our files.

“I think it’s very important that PayPlan support vulnerable clients so we can ensure we’re able to help them get the very best service from us.”