Financial protection technical & industry affairs manager for Scottish Widows takes a look at the year's highlights
Whilst sounding like a pantomime fairy-tale theme, the strapline ('From the Mermaid to the Palace of Westminster') is an apt description of 2018 - a year of reflection and change.
We've reflected on the centenaries of women's suffrage and the end of WW1, the 70th anniversary of both our NHS and the National Assistance Act 1948. For those who don't know, the latter abolished Elizabethan Poor Laws dating from 1601, bringing about a move from institutional to community based and means-tested social care.
We also remembered the 50th anniversary of the world's first human-to-human heart transplant and first UK heart transplant. To support this anniversary, Scottish Widows sponsored the creation of both a TV documentary, ‘The Operation That Stopped The World' and a short film on how this procedure led to the creation of Critical illness insurance.
March witnessed the first CII Insuring Women's Futures Live event at the Mermaid Theatre in London. This saw over 350 women in our profession come together to create a movement to bring about and deliver change, with www.insuringwomensfutures.co.uk moving from a plan, to the reality of project and work streams being established.
This was followed up in October with the inaugural Women in Financial Advice Awards, and in December with the first Women in Protection conference.
Government, legislative and regulatory change
It's been quite a year, with government, legislative and regulatory change continuing to influence financial protection and resilience need. For me, these are the key call outs:
- Support for Mortgage Interest Benefit in April 2018, moved from what was a welfare safety net for those with mortgages to a loan arrangement with a strict qualifying criteria of zero earnings. This reform has particular implication for dual income, joint mortgaged households, with both parties now needing to have no earnings before qualifying for this assistance.
- The roll out of Universal Credit continues to ramp up, and despite changes being announced, this benefit does not work particularly well for those with fluctuating incomes - specifically the self-employed, directors, and people on flexible employment contracts.
- A review of tenancy protection is being considered to provide renters with increased security. This is urgently needed given the increase in people renting and in particular those with children.
- Fundamental change to inheritance tax (IHT) is being considered, with the Office of Tax Simplification signalling a consultation on the efficiency and shape of IHT.
- The DWP rethinking bereaved parent support. This followed the Supreme Court ruling that a bereaved cohabitees' dependent children had been discriminated against, having been denied benefits simply because their parents weren't married.
- The long awaited Social Care Green Paper being published in December, together with an update to NHS England's Strategy.
- The announcement of Probate Fee reform in England and Wales, with a move away from a flat fee to a progressive charge linked to the value of the estate.
- The introduction of the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) with effect from 1 October 2018. This brought the CPD and ‘do the best thing for your customer' requirements, plus the announcement that intermediaries will be subject to the Senior Managers Regime from Nov 2019.
- The FCA 2018/19 Business Plan with its focus on Vulnerable Customers, Dual Pricing and Access to Insurance.
- The Financial Services Consumer Panel review of the protection market and call for a FCA review and the development of simpler, more accessible income protection.
Positive & welcome change
There's also been some really positive and welcome change in 2018:
- The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Insurance United Against Dementia campaign raised a significant amount of money for dementia research and have been working closely with the Alzheimer's Society to develop a ‘supporting clients with dementia' guide for our industry and profession.
- The Building Resilient Households Group successfully worked with the DWP to disregard the means-testing of financial protection claims benefits used to pay off, pay down and/or service loans, including mortgage loans. This is particularly important for consumers with mortgage protection needs and means that they will also be better off having protection for their mortgage than not.
- The establishment of the DWP Access To Insurance Working Group, a collaboration of professional bodies, trade bodies, independent experts, charities and consumer groups coming together in the public good to improve access to protection insurance. This has been a timely development as the end of the year has witnessed three debates in Westminster that have discussed access to insurance, as well as the launch of a Treasury Select Committee enquiry into access to financial services, including insurance. Who would have thought that in the midst of the Brexit debate, access to insurance is attracting parliamentary attention!
Thank you for your support
To bring 2018 to a close, on behalf of myself and my colleagues at Scottish Widows, the CII Insuring Women's Futures programme, the Insurance United Against Dementia campaign, the Building Resilient Households Group and the Access To Insurance Working Group, thank you for your support this year. Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We all look forward to working with you in 2019.
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Johnny Timpson holds forth on bereavement benefits, cohabiting inequalities and the upcoming Supreme Court case in Belfast
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