27th November, 2020

Covid, mental health and the changing role of insurers

The road ahead in light of government mental health spending and Winter Wellbeing Plan

Cover Magazine's Adam Saville reports:  Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £500m package to support mental health services in light of the coronavirus crisis, as part of his spending review yesterday.

The majority of these funds will be allocated to specialist services for young people, including schools and support for NHS workers, the Treasury said.

The allocation of funds, which comes after pressure from charities amid mental health concerns around a second lockdown, shortly followed the launch of the government's policy paper titled 'Staying mentally well this winter' earlier this week.

The England-specific plan (with other parts of UK to follow) focuses on empowering individuals to look after their own mental wellbeing during the winter months, through Covid-related resources, refreshed guidance and advice services.

As well as paying attention to children, schools and university the plan also prioritised wellbeing at work, drawing upon the Health & Safety Executives (HSE) ‘talking toolkit', work alongside bodies such as the ‘Thriving at Work Leadership' and content on the Mental Health at Work website.

Group risk trade body Group Risk Development (GRiD) welcomed the government's Winter Wellbeing Plan, while acknowledging the role the industry has to play alongside it.

"It's particularly encouraging to see that the crucial role employers play in ensuring their people are supported in improving their wellbeing at work has been recognised," said GRiD. "These are unparalleled times and employers that show understanding and compassion during an employee's time of need, whether that be in the midst of this pandemic or not, will win the loyalty and commitment of their staff.

"Employees look to their employer for support, and although supporting mental health was rising to the top of the corporate agenda prior to the pandemic, many employers may now be facing far more challenges and be at a loss as to how to go about doing this. However, as well as the government's support and suggestions, there's a wealth of support made available to employers and their staff within group risk benefits - employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness - including access to an employee assistance programme, fast access to talking therapies, access to virtual GP services, apps for managing mental health and more, at no extra cost."

"Access to such mental health support not only saves time and cost, but most importantly, lives."

Individual protection

According to LV= research, a quarter of the general population said lockdown and social distancing measures have left them feeling lonely and isolated, with nearly two-thirds of young adults aged 18-24 years old saying they have felt stressed or anxious in the last three months.

Protection insurers, such as LV=, have introduced a number of mental health related measures to help support customers throughout the pandemic. These include digital mental health support services as well as payment breaks to help customers who may be financially struggling during this time.

With mental health serving as one of the most common reason for an income protection claim, Debbie Kennedy, director of protection for LV=, warned that we are likely to see an increase in mental health disclosures for new applications and an increase in mental health-related claims as a result of the pandemic going forward.

"It's absolutely essential then that we continue to review and improve not just the questions we ask and the evidence we're seeking, but how we develop a better understanding of people's situation, with care and empathy," she said. "Plus re-examine how we can provide relevant support from day one, not just at claim."

ABI

In September, the Association of British Insurers unveiled its mental health standards, a framework of measurable insurer standards to improve the way the industry treats those impacted by mental health issues.

Created in consultation with mental health experts, including Mental Health UK and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the principles based on four areas have been developed to help provide better support for customers with mental health conditions when applying for health, travel or protection insurance. 

So far, a number of life insurers, including LV= and Royal London, have confirmed they will implement the mental health standards.

This article is from www.covermagazine.co.uk/news/

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