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Advisers welcome ABI's new mental health standards

Advisers welcome ABI's new mental health standards
 Photo: Polina Zimmerman via Pexels

Financial advisers have welcomed the Association of British Insurers' new mental health standards, which they hope will help clients whose mental ill health has been a barrier to their financial wellbeing. 

Andrew Wilkinson, director of specialist insurance adviser Moneysworth, hailed the launch of the ABI's mental health standards and the website for customers about mental health and insurance as positive steps forward.

He said: "The website is a really good resource for both consumers and advisers", highlighting the signposting feature of the site that helps consumers and advisers.

He added: "It's interesting the ABI should be putting its name to a website that effectively recommends a small number of specialist advisers.

"I am not sure I can remember seeing the ABI recommend any distributors previously, at least not in the life insurance space. So it feels potentially like a significant step forwards, especially as the ABI also endorsed the #accesstoinsurance project and mentioned it may seek to look at further areas of health conditions."

His comments came as the insurance trade body launched the Mental Health Standards to provide better support for customers with mental health conditions when applying for health, travel or protection insurance.

After months of research, in which the ABI and mental health charities found consumers all too often faced barriers when trying to access the service sector, especially in an increasingly digital world, it is hoped the standards will drive consistency and best practice in the field.

The standards mean potential customers with prior or existing mental health conditions will have clearer communications and a better understanding of the process and decisions insurers take when applying for cover.

The standards have been developed in consultation with mental health experts, including Mental Health UK and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Among the actions to help consumers are four key standards: 

  • Improving accessibility by providing support to customers who may need help completing the application form and offering two or more choices of how a customer can communicate with their insurer.
  • Supporting customers throughout their application by explaining the process and why questions are being asked.
  • Standardising communication with customers by removing technical language, making any exclusions clear and signposting consumers to relevant support services.
  • Increasing transparency around decision making by explaining to customers, upon request, what evidence was used to inform the insurer’s decision on cover and a commitment from insurers to regularly review their underwriting approach for mental health conditions.

Insurers will have until December 31, 2021 to implement the standards. 

Alongside the standards, Mental Health UK has partnered with the ABI to provide a complementary insurance and mental health guide.

As reported earlier this year by FTAdviser, a Mental Health UK report found 86 per cent of people affected by mental illness did not know where to go for independent advice when applying for insurance.

Yvonne Braun, director of policy for long-term savings at the ABI, said: "Nobody should feel excluded from financial services. Customers across the services sector face too many barriers and insurance is no different.

"People can find it difficult to navigate the increasingly digitised economy, particularly in financial services. For people with mental health conditions, this can be particularly distressing."

She added implementing the mental health standards would help ensure customers get the right help and support they need when choosing to buy insurance, and was "one step to help break down these barriers".