Charity launches guide for insurance firms to improve support for customers with mental health problems
29 March 2023
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has today published a practical guide to help insurance firms support customers with mental health problems navigate the insurance market.
- The guide provides insurers with tangible steps they can take to ensure more people with mental health problems can access and use their products.
- Acting on these issues will also help insurance help firms meet their regulatory requirements under the Consumer Duty.
Previous research from Money and Mental Health (which was supported by a grant from the Which? Fund) has highlighted the barriers that many people with mental health problems face when buying and using a range of insurance products.
It showed that common symptoms of mental health problems can make the process of applying for and claiming on insurance extremely difficult. Problems with concentration and processing information, for example, can make it harder to compare and choose the right policy, or understand how to claim.
The research also found that a lack of transparency around pricing decisions, and negative experiences of disclosing mental health conditions to insurers, is contributing to low levels of trust and unnecessary distress amongst customers with mental health problems. In a Money and Mental Health survey of over 200 people with lived experience of mental health problems, three in ten (29%) said they had decided not to disclose their condition even though it was asked about by an insurer – leaving them at risk of losing cover (1).
The guide published today sets out some practical steps firms can take to address these barriers for people with mental health problems, and better support customers who are struggling with their mental health. It draws on examples of good practice from across the insurance sector and financial services industry, as well as the lived experience testimony of people with mental health problems.
The guide is particularly relevant to firms selling insurance products where mental health is asked about in the application stage – for example travel, life and income protection insurance. However, it is also designed to help firms that provide a wide range of products – including motor and home – improve support and accessibility for people with mental health problems. It complements work by other organisations including the Association of British Insurers’ Mental Health Standards.
The recommendations will also support insurance firms in meeting their requirements under the Consumer Duty when it comes into force in July – particularly the new rules around promoting customer understanding and helping customers make informed decisions about financial products.
The guide focuses on two key areas; supporting people with mental health problems when buying insurance, and once they are customers. Practical steps for firms include:
- Providing mental health training for underwriters and front-line staff – focusing on the practical ways mental health problems can affect us and how people can manage symptoms.
- Ensuring all questions asked about mental health are relevant to calculating risk, and providing a clear explanation to customers of how a decision was made when a mental health problem has affected it (for instance through an increased premium).
- Making it clearer to customers what is and isn’t included in the policy – such as cover for their mental health. Firms should also make sure all information like the terms and conditions is written in simple, accessible language. The process and information on how to claim should also be made as easy as possible.
- Improving the handling and process of disclosing a mental health problem outside the application process, and providing information in all communications about what support and adjustments insurers can provide in response to disclosing.
- Proactively telling customers about what support is available for people struggling to make monthly payments, and reaching out to customers who have been identified as being at a higher risk of financial difficulty. Firms should also ensure that any communications around missed payments are supportive and non-threatening, with clear signposting about where to get help.
The Money and Mental Health team can provide insurance firms with expertise to help them improve their support for customers with mental health problems, and adhere to regulatory requirements like the Consumer Duty.
Conor D’Arcy, Head of Research and Policy at Money and Mental Health, said:
“People with mental health problems told us about the range of challenges they can face when trying to buy insurance or make a claim. But we’ve also heard positive stories of how well-designed customer journeys and claims processes can help those of us with mental health problems to get good outcomes. That makes us optimistic that if more firms do take action, their services can become more accessible and supportive for customers with mental health problems.”
“The guide published today provides practical and tangible steps for firms to start breaking down some of those barriers. Importantly, taking action on these issues will also help insurers meet regulatory expectations under the new Consumer Duty — for example, by making their communications clearer and enabling customers to make better-informed decisions about insurance products.”
To find out more about how Money and Mental Health can work with your firm, please contact Rosie Normanton, Head of Strategic Partnerships, at [email protected].
For media enquiries, please contact Rachel Fergusson, External Affairs Officer at Money and Mental Health, on 07935 216 804 or [email protected].
Notes to Editors
- Survey was carried out with 211 members of the Money and Mental Health Research Community, a group of nearly 5,000 people with lived experience of mental health problems. Conducted between 12 and 24 August 2022.
About the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent charity set up by Martin Lewis, and committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. We conduct research, develop practical policy solutions and work in partnership with both those providing services and those using them to find what really works. www.moneyandmentalhealth.org