Raising the bar: Why IP needs to do more for mental health
From prevention through to private healthcare support at the point of claim notification to boosted payouts for those who engage in preventative lifestyle behaviour, the scope of income protection is expanding for mental health.
It’s widely accepted that protecting a client’s income should be the top priority when it comes to their protection needs.
Traditionally, though, income protection (IP) plans, like other protection products, have been designed to provide little more than financial ‘compensation’ in the event of a claim. But to deliver the best possible outcome for clients, the scope of IP plans has needed to expand, with a greater emphasis on early intervention, rehabilitation and prevention.
Alongside cancer support and physiotherapy, the growing mental health challenge in the UK is making efficient access to effective healthcare services - alongside a financial safety-net - even more necessary.
Mental health and sickness absence in the spotlight
Recent figures published by ONS highlight the health challenges facing the UK workforce, with the number of people out of work due to long-term sickness at a record high1. Our most recent Britain’s Healthiest Workplace data also tells us that economic productivity has fallen 39% since 20192.
For many thousands of those out of work, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and economic uncertainty will be adding an extra dimension of financial uncertainty to an already difficult situation.
Mental health meanwhile remains one of the leading causes of sickness absence in the UK, with stress, depression and anxiety accounting for the majority of working days lost to ill-health in 2021/223. The latest ONS figures also highlight a rise in mental health related sickness absence, particularly amongst younger workers.
More broadly, poor mental health has been on the rise in the UK, exacerbated in recent years by the fall-out from the pandemic. According to Mind, one in six people in England report experiencing a common mental health problem – such as anxiety and depression – in any given week.
The benefits of a financial safety-net
The links between money worries and mental health are well known. Unsurprisingly for example, those in debt are more likely to have a mental health problem4.
The ongoing cost-of-living crisis has put even more strain on people, laying bare the poor financial resilience of UK households. Research last year found that a staggering quarter of UK adults had less than £100 set aside in savings5.
As well as giving clients peace of mind, the benefits of IP cover should not be underestimated. To offset the financial shock of someone losing their income due to ill-health or injury, it can provide breathing space to focus on their health and recovery, without worrying how they’ll pay their bills or keep a roof over their head.
However, many people will require more than just financial support, particularly to get back on their feet and well enough to return to work.
Enhanced rehabilitation support
Alongside any financial safety-net, income protection plans can also play a key role in helping clients recover from their illness and, where appropriate, rehabilitate them back into work.
This is especially valuable at a time when the NHS is under strain and access to certain rehabilitation support services may be more limited, especially for more common every-day ailments. Waiting lists for mental health support remain long6, whilst there are many more on so called ‘hidden waiting-lists’ who are yet to access any sort of treatment7.
We know that Talking Therapies, such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can provide significant benefits in helping people manage and treat a mental health condition and when offered in a timely manner, can lead to much better recovery outcomes.
We’ve seen this first hand through the provision of Talking Therapies on our Individual Private Medical Insurance (PMI) proposition, with almost 99% of members that use talking therapies requiring no further treatment within three months8.
It’s for this reason that we’ve made access to Talking Therapies one of our new unique rehabilitation pathways to IP claimants, as part of our recent Life Launch 2023.
By drawing upon our clinical expertise in this area and utilising the existing treatment pathways from our PMI business, claimants can access up to eight session of Talking Therapies per year, from claim notification.
Providing access to rehabilitation pathways almost immediately can ensure there is no delay in individuals accessing the right care and support their recovery at an early enough point.
Supporting client mental and physical wellbeing
As the scope of protection products expands beyond the traditional focus of just paying claims, plans can also increasingly play a key role in helping to prevent illness from arising in the first place.
Given the economic impact of falling productivity, helping clients to remain physically and mentally in good health can have significant benefits for the individual, as well as for wider society too.
Clients have access to an expanding range of benefits and tools to help support their wellbeing, both physical and mental. Given the well-known connections between physical and mental health, many of these benefits can be mutually supportive.
Aside from specific mental wellbeing tools like mindfulness app Headspace, many of the wellbeing benefits of the Vitality Programme – such as incentivised physical activity – can also play an important role in helping people to manage and improve their mental health.
Good physical health can relieve stress, release endorphins and help us to sleep better, so encouraging clients looking after themselves across multiple health pillars can bring significant benefits. This is where the incentivised rewards programme can be especially effective, in helping to embed healthy habits and making them stick.
That’s why we recently introduced the Income Boost. Because engaging in the Vitality Programme reduces both the likelihood and complexity of Income Protection claims, we pay out extra for six months to those with a higher Vitality status prior to claims. So, the more clients look after their health, the more they’ll benefit if something does go wrong. After all, the best type of IP claim is always one that is prevented.
The power of Talking Therapies – Member claim story
David recently shared with us his story of emotional recovery and mental rehabilitation, after experiencing mental challenges in 2019.
“To actually go and discover and learn something about myself in a really positive way, in a safe space as well, it was just incredible. If more people knew the potential and that you don’t have to sit on such physical pain for so long without going to see a doctor, I hope more people would seek out counselling…
The counselling has helped to put my mind in a much better place to help support my boys now that’s what is incredible with it, and why I’m such an advocate [for therapy].”
Where to next?
Five ways to support client mental health
From preventative support to quick and easy access to treatment when it’s needed, advisers are perfectly placed to ensure the mental health of clients is fully covered, writes Greg Levine.
Children need the right cover too
When it comes to protection conversations, getting some clients to consider their own needs can be difficult enough, but child illness can be an especially challenging conversation.
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1 Record numbers not working due to ill health - BBC News
2 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, Vitality, 2022
3 Statistics - Working days lost in Great Britain (hse.gov.uk)
4 Debt and mental health | Royal College of Psychiatrists (rcpsych.ac.uk)
5 Cost of living: Millions have no savings as prices soar - BBC News
6 NHS fails on mental health targets as waiting list rises 1.2 million | The Independent
7 Hidden waits force more than three quarters of mental health patients to seek help from emergency services (rcpsych.ac.uk)
8 Vitality Health Claims & Insights report 2022