PayPlan has become the first debt advice provider in the UK to achieve the Inclusive Service Kitemark™ for providing an inclusive and flexible service that benefits all consumers, regardless of their personal circumstances.

The certification was awarded by BSI, the business standards and improvement company, this morning (Wednesday, January 25). The Kitemark covers topics such as the identification of customer vulnerability, inclusive design of products and services, as well as the adoption of AI (artificial intelligence) and data collection, protection and sharing to ensure that organisations are creating an inclusive service for all.

John Fairhurst, Director at PayPlan, said: “As the first debt advice provider in the UK to achieve this certification, we are delighted at this recognition of our work to champion the importance of supporting vulnerable customers and ensuring our debt advice is accessible to all.

“We are proud of our team’s progress in this area and are committed to the retention of the Kitemark and further development of our service to ensure we continue working hard to engage with our customers in the right way, at the right time and provide the very best support possible.”

Natasha Bambridge, Global Consumer Promise Practice Director at BSI said: “Amid the cost-of-living crisis, and the growing number of vulnerable adults living in the UK, protecting vulnerable consumers has never been so critical. The Inclusive Service Kitemark demonstrates an organisation’s ongoing commitment to offering an inclusive service for all at such a critical time.

“All of the organisations that have achieved certification have demonstrated they understand the impact of consumer vulnerability and provide an inclusive and flexible approach to address it. Therefore, these organisations are better able to meet a diverse range of consumer needs, making it easier for consumers to access information, services and products, make good decisions and achieve positive outcomes.”

The BSI Inclusive Service Kitemark focuses on protecting vulnerable consumers and PayPlan has demonstrated compliance to the standard, BS ISO 22458 Consumer vulnerability – Requirements and guidelines for the design and delivery of inclusive service.

It has industry-specific requirements which tested PayPlan’s processes with evidence the free debt advice provider was meeting performance metrics in these areas. It provides a framework to help organisations and their employees understand the underlying factors involved in consumer vulnerability, and work to develop processes, implement services, collaborate with partners and look at new innovations to help overcome this challenge.

Additionally, the Kitemark aligns with regulators including Ofgem, Ofwat FCA, United Regulators NI and their strategies to drive organizations to do more to safeguard customers in vulnerable situations.

To achieve the BSI Inclusive Service Kitemark, PayPlan was assessed by an expert auditor against the BS ISO 22458 standard and scheme requirements. This was a two-part assessment, which will involve a programme of ongoing surveillance now that certification has been achieved to assess continuing compliance.

Emma Gibbons, Vulnerability Lead at PayPlan added: “We’re so proud to be awarded this certification. This is a culmination of hard work and a genuine desire to make things better for clients in difficult circumstances.

“It’s testament to the amazing things that happen every day at PayPlan and the difference that we make. On a personal level I feel so fortunate to work with people that put their heart and soul into what they do every day. Thank you to everyone involved!”