Last November the Income Protection Task Force launched the Seven Families campaign to raise awareness of the financial and emotional impact of being unable to work through serious accident, long-term health conditions or disability.
The campaign provides financial support for one year to the selected families, as if they had bought a short-term income protection plan. But the help provided by Seven Families goes beyond just financial.
Independent claims and underwriting specialist Karin Lloyd runs the Seven Families Beneficiaries Hub. “The Beneficiaries Hub is what we have christened the package of support we provide to the families and which replicates what many companies would offer as part of their income protection plans, either as advertised elements of the product or as part of their claims-handling culture,” she says.
The package includes access to a benefits advice helpline; general financial and debt management advice from an IFA; emotional support, practical information and medical liaison from RedArc; and finally a case management service staffed by volunteer rehabilitation professionals. Some of the industry’s rehabilitation service suppliers are also providing pro-bono help to Seven Families.
Seven Families beneficiary Tracey Clarke has been unable to work since losing 98 per cent of her sight. She and her husband Tim have lived on a houseboat since they could no longer afford their family home.
Clarke had income protection years ago but cancelled all insurance policies and pension payments as the family’s financial situation worsened. ”We were both fit and healthy then and couldn’t foresee any need for such plans,” she says. But she now understands the wider picture of the benefits – not just the financial help.
“The backup support has been fantastic. I have had an assessment from Action for Blind People, which has been extremely helpful in pointing me to a range of options and ideas for equipment and training. I have been linked up with some wonderful people who are willing and well-placed to offer help and mentorship with getting on the way to a new career in writing,” says Clarke.
Daniel Pinder, another Seven Families beneficiary, was born deaf and diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age. He had been working as a rehabilitation officer but was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009 and eventually had to give up work last year.
The money from Seven Families has enabled him to continue living in his home, support his family and get the medical treatment and equipment he needs to regain some of his abilities, such as mobility. But he says money is not the whole story.
“There are other services available but people are unsure if it is for them. Not everything is publicly funded but sometimes people will have the opportunity to try something different and that might allow the personal growth that we did not think was possible,” he says.
Meanwhile, Paul Pickford, another beneficiary, ran a car dealership before suffering a brain stem stroke in 2012. He is now paralysed and speaks with the help of a computer but is keen to get back into work, perhaps by starting his own business.
Pickford had some awareness of income protection before Seven Families when arranging a mortgage in 2010. “To be honest, it seemed expensive. I did not believe I needed it and I was cynical of the adviser’s motives for proposing it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” he says.
Pickford feels there should be more awareness of the full range of benefits of services that income protection can offer. He says: “There is not enough understanding of why income protection policies are so important or that apart from financial assistance, other services can be provided. There is an assumption the NHS provides cover for these type of eventualities. Unfortunately, the reality is it falls woefully short nationally when it comes to rehab services.”
Le Beau Visage managing director and chairman of the Income Protection Task Force Peter Le Beau points out rehabilitation is common in the group market among insurers like Unum and Canada Life. “But there are also good individual rehabilitation specialists who can get people back to work after something like a serious car accident which has caused loss of function,” he says.
Lloyd adds: “In the individual market, customers respond well to these services, especially at the point of need. But the extent to which they are advertised and promoted depends largely on individual IFAs and their sales approach.”
LV= provides rehabilitation to Seven Families as part of the case management service and also provides emotional and back-to-work support on its individual income protection plans. Head of intermediary marketing at the insurer Justin Harper says such benefits are “vastly understated and undervalued”.
Vitality technical product manager Nick Telfer says insurers can be perceived as wanting to get people off their claims books as soon as possible, rather than trying to help people back on their feet. “As an industry we do not do enough about income protection – we need to do more,” he says.