Banks too often treat weak clients inadequately which results in hardship and over-charging as well as distress for their families, according to new industry research seen by the Telegraph.

Finance firms have been ordered to re-train their staff so they identify when a customer is vulnerable and needs more help, and to show more empathy to people in difficult situations.

Customers with serious illnesses, mental health problems and learning difficulties, as well as their families and the recently bereaved, can have trouble accessing banking services properly, according to the report from the Vulnerability Taskforce, a group set up by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and several other finance industry groups.

The Taskforce found cases where customers with severe illnesses were given no help with their money even when they requested it. In some cases bank rules said help was only given once a customer fell behind with payments, rather than when asking for help before the problem was severe.