In this weeks Leading the Way blog, we discuss the importance of ongoing assessment and how continuous improvement is achieved at Bristow & Sutor by adhering to high and progressive standards.
In May 2021, Bristow & Sutor received certification to BSI 18477: 2010 - Inclusive service provision for identifying and responding to consumer vulnerability for debt collection. This is an industry-leading standard and requires regularly progressive audits to ensure we continue to take steps in the right direction.
BSI 18477 was developed to help organisations achieve vulnerability objectives and prove that they deliver an inclusive service. It is designed to help companies to identify and respond appropriately to different vulnerability needs and to deliver services that do not discriminate. Verification to this standard demonstrates that Bristow & Sutor has the relevant policies, procedures, training plans and fair and accessible practices in place when supporting and working with potentially vulnerable people. This is incredibly important as our enforcement agents (EAs) are sometimes the first people to identify someone who is facing vulnerable circumstances.
BSI has existed since 1901 and was the world’s first National Standards Body. They have played a leading role in developing a new generation of standards to help organizations become better governed and more responsible. To achieve verification through BSI requires thorough assessments and detailed evidence, which is why Bristow & Sutor opted to partner with the organisation for our recent vulnerability certification. We must know exactly where we are as a business concerning this important topic and continue to work towards the very highest of standards.
We underwent a two-day Stage 1 assessment followed by a five-day 5 Stage 2 assessment, during which representatives from BSI conducted a rigorous review of our policies and procedures for call, case and complaint handling as well as EA operations. They also reviewed accessibility on our website, external communications, internal audit process and training and development delivery.
We were very proud to receive positive feedback from the BSI auditor who commented, “throughout the BSI audits Bristow & Sutor was shown to understand the needs of vulnerable customers to deliver a fair and inclusive service. The system in place is largely designed to support customers in vulnerable situations identifying financial difficulties and providing support to all customers as far as is practical whilst meeting client SLAs”.
Supporting Breathing Space
Supporting vulnerable people and referring them to dedicated welfare teams has always been a key feature of our service, but this has become even more integral in recent times.
Since the recent implementation of the Debt Respite Scheme, aka Breathing Space, vulnerability cases have had increased prevalence in the enforcement industry, but by no means mark a dramatic change to the levels of cases we have always identified and supported. Last week, for example, Bristow & Sutor handled 85 Breathing Space cases from 40 separate people. Whilst the levels of related cases are perfectly manageable and we have robust related processes and procedures, this legislation means it is more important than ever that we remain focused on understanding the needs of vulnerable people and ensuring our people have access to the guidance needed to appropriately support the people they engage with at all times.
Bristow & Sutor has a long history of successfully supporting vulnerable people in conjunction with both the Debt Advice sector and Local Authorities. Our EAs continue to regularly signpost people towards helpful advice and always refer any individuals they identify as a potential case of vulnerability.
Securing BSI 18477 verification is a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of our people. It is proof that we truly lead the way in the support and care of clients and the customers that we support. But it is incredibly important that we do not rest on our laurels as there is always room for improvement. BSI will now audit Bristow & Sutor annually to ensure that we continue operating in a way that meets the criteria of this standard and that we continue to comply with our successful internal procedures and processes.
Earlier this year, we successfully obtained ISO 9001 (Quality) External Audit and NQA COVID Secure Verification. We hope that by continually achieving standards across different areas of our business we will provide ongoing assurance to employees, debtors and clients that we are a safe, reputable and committed business that do things the right way.
As part of our drive to continuously improve, Bristow & Sutor regularly invite staff to complete surveys and provide feedback on a range of different operations and subjects. We recently adopted WeThrive which allows us to create demonstrable action plans based on the feedback we receive. We will be asking our employees to send us their ideas on anything they think we could do to be even more inclusive in future and maintain our commitment to listening to the voices of our people.
Bristow & Sutor continues to commit to support the most vulnerable members of society and explore further ideas and solutions as we strive to be Cool, Calm and Collected.