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Why implementing the Mental Health Standards can make a vital difference for customers

Firms across the insurance and long-term savings sector have been working to improve support for customers with mental health conditions. Last autumn, the ABI launched the Mental Health Standards to help drive consistency and best practice across the industry, ensuring clearer communications and a better understanding of the process and decisions insurers take when customers apply for health, travel or protection cover.

The Standards were developed in consultation with mental health experts, including Mental Health UK and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and insurers have until the end of 2021 to implement them.

As an ABI member who has already implemented many of the actions required, Helen Dick, Senior Manager Underwriting and Claims Strategy at Scottish Widows, explains more here.

Why do you think the Mental Health and Insurance Standards are important for customers?

The Standards are important to help customers who have experienced a mental health condition have confidence that it’s not a barrier to improving their financial resilience or accessing insurance cover that is right for them. They will ensure consistency in the way mental health is treated across the industry to improve outcomes for customers, which can only be a good thing.

What difference will customers themselves see as a result of implementing the Standards?

At Scottish Widows, the process of applying for protection insurance, such as life insurance or critical illness cover, will be improved for customers with mental health conditions. By asking appropriate questions that are relevant to mental health conditions and treatments, using non-technical language, communicating with clarity and empathy and providing information on where other support is available, there will be a difference to the outcome and overall customer experience.

How has Scottish Widows implemented changes for advisers and customers?

We’ve been working with Mental Health UK, our charity partner, to implement changes to our underwriting approach for customers with a mental health condition. We’ve simplified the questions customers have to answer when applying for cover so as to make it easier for them to tell us about their condition, and we’ve reviewed the way in which we communicate our decisions to be clearer and more transparent. Where applications need to be referred for further underwriting decisions, we also now offer an option for customers to write down their story in their own words if that is a helpful way for them to explain their position. Overall, we want there to be fairer underwriting decisions – we focus on how well individuals are managing their condition to provide improved outcomes.

For our advisors, we provide prompts on screen as a reminder that some sensitive questions might be asked so they can support the customer. Training is also available to them, such as through the online course provided by the ABI and RightSteps, to be able to deal with difficult conversations with understanding and empathy. They also know where to direct customers who might need more support. One external advisor has commentated on how this approach has started to feel more holistic and personal for the customer.

In 2020 we had 95% overall acceptance for customers disclosing a mental health condition, with 85% offered standard rates.

What is the one change you would like to see across the industry on mental health in the next year?

The industry continuing to work together to improve accessibility to valuable protection insurance for customers with mental health conditions.


Last updated 14/05/2021