Seventh heaven. Seven sisters. Seven deadly sins. The seven wonders of the world.
Into the lexicon of sevens now comes “Seven Families”. An innovative financial campaign designed to spread the gospel to the general public about that little-known product called income protection insurance. I wish the campaign every success because such a good idea has been a long time coming.
In my days as a cub reporter on Money Management magazine back in the late 1980s, it was drummed into me that protection insurance was the bedrock of family finance. Lay down the protection foundations and then start thinking about saving for the future.
But somewhere along the line, the protection message got lost. Of course, most people take out life cover when they take out a mortgage to buy their first home, and sometimes this will have critical illness added on. And many companies provide their employees with life cover – death-in-service benefits – as part of their employee benefits package. But income protection insurance, probably because of cost and the new auto-enrolment requirements, does not really get a look in.
One financial adviser I spoke to last week suggested that the death of the direct sales forces has done protection insurance no favours. Those sales armies, she said, were brought up on the same principles that were drilled into me at Money Management. Protection first, long-term savings to follow.
The result is that there are only three million income protection policies in force, and given that there are more than 30 million people working today in the UK, that is a big protection gap. A yawning gap.
This is where Seven Families comes in. The idea, supported by Disability Rights UK, is to demonstrate how having income protection insurance, together with rehabilitation support and counselling, can help put people’s lives back on track.
Of course, the clock can never be turned back for those people who do suffer life-long disabilities or life-changing illnesses, but the extra income can provide a financial lifeline and in some instances give people the necessary help to get them back into employment.
For a year, Seven Families will provide seven families with income replacement benefit. The amount will be based on the maximum level of cover they could have been insured for before they became unable to work.
I was fortunate enough to talk to the first person, chosen by Disability Rights UK, who will take part in the Seven Families campaign. A delightful woman called Tracey Clarke who is suffering from optic nerve atrophy. Her prognosis is poor – she will eventually lose her sight and is already relying on a guide dog called Oakley to help her get around.
Tracey, 48, is a pharmacy technician by training, but her failing sight has meant she had to give that up long ago. And as her husband Tim is now her full-time carer, life financially has been tough. The family home was sold to stave off bankruptcy and they now live on a narrow boat, trundling up and down the country’s canal system. They survive on Tracey’s disability living allowance and Tim’s carer’s allowance.