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ABI launches biggest ever drive to boost standards for insurance customers with mental health conditions

  • Online platform provides bespoke mental health training for the insurance industry, developed with mental health experts, advisers and ABI Members
  • ABI commits to training 5,000 advisers and front-line staff through the platform by the end of the year
  • The CII accredited training provides an insurance industry benchmark for improving awareness of mental health conditions

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is today launching a free online mental health training  platform developed in collaboration with employee health and wellbeing specialists, Rightsteps, which is part of leading health and care social enterprise, Turning Point.1 The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) accredited training provides an insurance industry benchmark for improving the level of understanding of mental health in customer-facing roles. The training also highlights the support available for advisers and front-line staff to help them better engage with customers who disclose they have a mental health condition. The ABI has committed to training 5,000 advisers and front-line staff through the platform by the end of the year.

Research shows that many people living with mental health conditions have struggled to navigate the process to access insurance, leading over two-thirds (68%) to believe they were unfairly discriminated against because of their mental health.2 Furthermore, nearly half (45%) of those with a mental health condition said the process of applying for insurance left them feeling distressed, which highlights the importance of improving the dialogue between the adviser or front-line staff member and customer on mental health.

Yvonne Braun, Director of Policy for Long-Term Savings and Protection at the ABI, said:

Yvonne Braun.png“The Covid-19 pandemic has created a mental health emergency and the insurance industry is in the frontline in responding to this crisis. It’s our duty to help all vulnerable customers navigate what can often feel like overwhelmingly complex financial products that are there to provide peace of mind. We are committed to a fundamental step-change in the quality of support our industry gives customers with mental health conditions, and the launch of this training platform is vital to make this a reality and improve trust and transparency in the insurance industry.”

The online training module comprises of three courses and the first introduces background on mental health, enabling advisers and front-line staff at insurers to understand some of the most common mental health conditions and recognise the possible signs and symptoms. This course also shows how advisers and front-line staff can support a customer who discloses they have a mental health condition, and act as advocates for mental health support in their own workplace.

The second course provides training on effective communication with those who have a mental health condition, particularly during emotionally challenging or difficult conversations.

The final course is on individual vulnerability and crisis management, and after completing it advisers and front-line staff should be able to understand what a mental health crisis is and recognise the signs and symptoms of this. They will learn useful skills and responses to support customers experiencing a mental health crisis, both face-to-face and over the telephone.

The training builds upon the ABI’s existing work on mental health and aims to improve awareness and understanding of mental health conditions, particularly for those who speak to customers in their everyday roles. Last September, the ABI launched the Mental Health and Insurance Standards to provide better support for customers with mental health conditions when applying for health, travel or protection insurance, and the ABI also created a customer-facing insurance and mental health guide with Mental Health UK as part of this. The Standards also offer clear guidance to insurers on how to support those with prior or existing mental health conditions when they seek insurance cover. Insurers have until 31st December 2021 to implement the standards. 

Yvonne Braun, Director of Policy for Long-Term Savings and Protection at the ABI, continues: “Having a mental health condition should not be a barrier that excludes anyone from accessing financial services products. We encourage advisers and staff in customer facing roles to consider taking this training. It is absolutely vital that those who work with customers have a good understanding of what mental health conditions mean and how to appropriately engage with people who live with them.”

Julie BassRightsteps is part of the Turning Point Group. Julie Bass, Turning Point Chief Executive, said: “We know that one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives and for many of us this will be triggered by a life event such as suffering a burglary, a house fire or a car accident or maybe becoming too ill to work. We are really pleased to be working with the ABI to provide mental health training to people working in customer facing roles across the insurance sector. Developed by Rightsteps’ team of psychologists, the e-learning materials will help staff improve their understanding of mental health issues and communicate better with their customers who may be struggling.”

Sian FisherSian Fisher, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), said: “Mental ill-health is a major social and health related challenge, one which has had a particularly devastating effect on people over the last year due to the pandemic. The insurance market plays a vital role in supporting people, sometimes at the lowest point in their lives and so it's important professionals are aware of their customers’ mental ill-health, as well as their own.

“I welcome the growing recognition of the importance of mental health support. Specifically, in light of the ABI’s Mental Health Standards, as well as our own revised guidance for our members. The ABI and Rightsteps’ new training signifies a vital addition to our united work on mental health in insurance and highlights the effects it can have on consumers and staff alike. I am delighted to be able to support its launch and to announce our accreditation of the training, ensuring everyone has at least some access to the skills and knowledge they need to understand mental ill-health.”

Notes for Editors 

  1. The training module will be free for the first year with fees to be announced thereafter. 
  2. Research conducted last year by Mental Health UK: https://mhukcdn.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/29173911/Affording-protection-mental-health-and-insurance.pdf

For more information, please contact the ABI Press Office.

Last updated 19/04/2021