Bobbi Sills explores what insurance professionals and the government can do to improve access to, and affordability of, later-life care
How insurance professionals and the government can best serve an ageing population was the theme of the CII’s fringe event at the 2021 Conservative Party Conference in October.
The session brought together keynote speakers – including Rt Hon Damian Green, member of parliament for Ashford; Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK; Laura Hutchinson, head of political intelligence at Dods Group; and Dr Matthew Connell, director of policy and public affairs at the CII – to discuss the need to change attitudes towards later-life care.
When it comes to planning for later life, Dr Connell said individuals tend to place greater value in the smaller things, such as how they can continue to access products and services with ease.
Research conducted with 2,000 consumers in December 2020 as part of the CII’s Insuring Futures campaign revealed that people who discuss care plans with their wider family find huge reassurance from talking through the issues and coming up with a plan.
Dr Connell said: “Before people start to think about planning for funding and buying insurance for care, they want reassurance on smaller matters such as who will be able to talk to their bank and insurance companies or who will manage their passwords when they are no longer able to.”
Dr Connell was keen to highlight the valuable work of collective services such as Settld, which helps bereaved individuals manage end-of-life admin in a ‘tell us once’ format that notifies all parties in one go.
However, he noted that there is still a significant gap between people realising there is support and then interacting with government and financial services organisations, while increasingly the only face-to-face contact they are having is through overburdened doctors’ surgeries.
He said: “The core of the CII’s Insuring Futures campaign looks at the kind of conversations people need to have within their families to create greater financial resilience.
“There is a huge amount of investment that can come from both the public and private sectors to help people start those simple conversations,” he concluded.
To support an ageing society, Age UK’s Ms Abrahams said companies must be mindful of older consumers who are at a greater risk of being digitally excluded.
She noted that while it is important to have good functioning online systems that work for older people, it is also equally important to offer alternatives where possible, such as paper communication and efficient services to support customers in navigating digital platforms.
Ms Abrahams said: “The more private sector organisations can do to make their systems as intuitive and easy to use as possible, the better this will benefit both older and younger generations.”
Dr Connell agreed that organisations must strike a balance between using digital systems to improve their processes and recognising areas where human skills resonate more with customers.
He added: “The person on the end of the phone the third time a customer calls is more important than the system itself. Digital skills are often a means to an end. It is about freeing up people to do the things that only people can do.”
Speaking at the event in Manchester, Mr Green said there is work to be done by the government to improve access and affordability of later-life care through increased funding of services.
A whitepaper is set to be released later this year outlining the proposed measures for reforming social care, covering areas such as funding, improving infrastructure and integrating care and health.
However, Dr Connell pointed out that for policies to be effective they must deliver genuine value in supporting people to plan for the future.
“One of the big tests of any public spending is whether it makes it easier for people to plan for themselves.
“Is it looking after the people who have no capacity to plan for themselves? And equally, is it looking after the people who have some capacity to plan and giving them something back in return?” he asked.
The core of the CII’s Insuring Futures campaign looks at the kind of conversations people need to have within their families to create greater financial resilience
Dr Connell highlighted a grey area in private and public sector strategy: ensuring efficient identification and security processes are in place to support family members acting on behalf of an elderly or sick relative.
He said that while it is important to establish a system that avoids economic abuse, it should also acknowledge that maintaining an individual’s affairs is often a collective effort.
“Understanding the importance of the family as an institution and recognising the work that families do, as well as the kind of support that can be given to reassure them they are not alone, is vital.
“This has got to be the mindset that is established all the way, through both government and the private sector,” concluded Dr Connell.
To find out more about the CII’s insightful leadership programmes, visit: www.cii.co.uk/insightful-leadership
Bobbi Sills is communications executive of the CII