Being a disabled consumer can be draining and difficult

Companies need to get clear information on what disabled customers need. And disabled consumers need to be able to express their needs simply and quickly.

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Everyday grind

Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway, Co-convenor of the Futures Thinking Network

Dan Holloway is a Co-convenor of the Futures Thinking Network at The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, who also has ADHD and bipolar disorder.

He remembers trying to sort out a problem with a company:

“I had explained that I needed to communicate via email, but they told me the only way to resolve it was via the telephone. It took me 10 hours to complete a task that for others would take 10 minutes. And to get what I needed, I had to repeatedly tell many people the intimate details of my medical history.”

“I simply can’t do that every time I interact with a company. So there are things I just end up not doing. Sometimes that can mean bills don’t get paid on time. Not because I don’t have the money. Not because firms can’t communicate the way I need them to. But because I simply don’t have the energy to spend hours getting that support from every one of them.”

Jez Fawcett is a Product Director at Experian. He is also partially sighted. For him, “reading terms and conditions creates challenges when I’m trying to get things done with organisations”.

I’ll be totally honest, I often just don’t read the details, because I can’t. That’s not good. I have engaged with organisations to try to get the materials in a way that I can read. And it’s exhausting.

Jez Fawcett, Product Director, Experian

The equation of frustration

Dan, Jez and many of the millions with support needs in the UK are trapped in an equation of frustration:

Everyday services and companies – banks, energy suppliers, mobile providers, or local authorities – don’t always have the right information to meet disabled consumers’ needs.

For customers, getting the right support often involves talking through sensitive medical details – again and again, with each organisation.

Finally, disabled consumers are often caught in a maddening paradox. They are trying to explain to organisations that they can’t communicate effectively using normal means. But to get that message over usually they usually have to try to communicate using ways or channels that are not accessible or usable for them.

So the disabled and vulnerable sink huge amounts of time and energy into administration. As Holloway says, “This time and energy could have spent living life, rather than being ground down by it”.

Introducing Support Hub: an end to the misery-go-round

Disabled consumers want organisations to end this misery-go-round. Organisations want this too.

But for this to happen, companies need to get clear information on what disabled customers need. And disabled consumers need to be able to express their needs simply and quickly. And once.

Driven by users like Dan, powered by Experian, and used by more and more key service providers, Support Hub is a simple, standardised solution. It provides

  • 1 accessible online portal for disabled users
  • 1 shared set of supports, based on what people who use them most want
  • 1 menu of supports to choose from
  • 1 click to send this information to the key organisations a user interacts with
  • 3 types of needs initially supported – Sight, Sound, Mind – with more in development
  • 0 need to go into complex medical histories

Disabled and vulnerable people can get what they need first-time, and get on with living.

Needs Support Hub currently helps with

The Support Hub currently caters for these key groups of people with support needs:

  • Sight. Two million people in the UK live with sight loss, including 350,000 registered blind or partially sighted
  • Hearing. Twelve million have hearing loss, and 151,000 people use British Sign Language.
  • Mental health. One in four people will experience mental health problems each year.
  • Dementia. 944,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

The aim in time is to cater for more needs in time. And to connect Support Hub to every major financial institution, local authority and service provider in the UK.

Why get involved?

Support Hub is about solving a problem for disabled consumers. And solving that problem needs collaboration as an industry. The more organisations that sign up for this unique tool, the more useful it is. But there’s more:

1. Support Hub sets a new standard in supporting vulnerable and disabled consumers

Support Hub sets a new industry standard. Consumers’ lived experience is at its heart, influencing its design and how it works.

It’s the result of collaborative effort in the industry, involving experts and service providers, as well as end users. For users, it:

  • ends the frustration of having to find the right person and channel for disabled users to explain their communications needs
  • lets users state their needs once, not dozens of times for different organisations.
  • moves the focus from the pain of explaining complex and sensitive medical histories to the empowerment of getting the support needed.
  • lets users find out up-front what support different organisations can offer.

Organisations can trust that they are getting a service that is the best available, one that reflects what vulnerable consumers really need. It is a service that works better for users than any that has gone before, one that delivers the supports users actually need, and therefore one that changes lives for the better. With Support Hub, disabled consumers get what they need first-time, and can get on with living as a consequence.

2. Attract new customers, retain existing ones

There are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, and millions more who are vulnerable. For organisations that can serve them well, this is a huge customer base.

Support Hub will help you attract new consumers. And it will help you build stronger, longer and more loyal relationships with those you already work with.

3. Stay on the right side of the law and regulators

Organisations are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to the provision of goods or services so that disabled people can access and use them like any other customer.

Organisations are also required to anticipate and know the support needs disabled people might have. And they are required to put reasonable adjustments into place without waiting to be asked.

Every regulator of services – from the FCA to Ofwat – expects organisations to meet these standards. For the financial sector, the FCA’s new Consumer Duty sets even higher and clearer standards of consumer protection. Of course, this includes support for vulnerable and disabled customers.

How can you get involved?

By 2030, our aim is to help 7 million consumers connect to over 200 organisations to get the support they need.

This is why we are asking organisations to join together to change lives.

Discover Support Hub

Find out more about how Support Hub can help you and your customers.

Get involved now

Infographic shows an equation. It reads ‘difficulty getting organisations to communicate in a way that works, plus having to explain complex sensitive medication information, multiplied by dozens or organisations, equals wasted time and emotional strain’.

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