Exclusive: MetLife reports surge in parental interest for protection after NHS left them “disappointed, frustrated, and disheartened”

According to the latest research conducted by MetLife UK, almost 60% of adults are more interested in financial protection products now they're parents, yet only 15% have taken out a policy in case their child(ren) becomes ill or has an accident.

Related topics:  MetLife,  CIC
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
29th December 2023
Parent with child
"Why aren’t GP surgeries open till 8pm to make it easier on working parents who don’t want their children to miss out on education?"
- Imran Afzal, 46-year-old civil servant

“When it comes to our children, you really can’t plan for all of life’s good and bad surprises,” says Richard Horner, Head of Individual Protection at MetLife UK. Yet, 85% of parents haven’t taken out a protection policy in case their child(ren) becomes ill or has an accident. Of those surveyed, 39% said they’d use savings if they couldn’t work due to illness while 27% simply have no interest in financial products. Worryingly, 57% of adults in the UK don’t know which financial products are best for them and their family.

When asked what circumstances would prompt them to purchase protection for their children, the most popular responses were illness (45%), moving house or buying a property (42%), accident (42%), and the loss of a loved one (42%). Only 37% thought reduced pay or redundancy would encourage them to buy a protection policy.

According to MetLife UK, 68% of parents have had to take time off work, or time away from their own business, to care for their child(ren). On average, parents have taken almost four (3.81) days in the last twelve months – 61% have taken up to or over a week off to look after their child(ren). Notably, 34% had to take unpaid leave.

In terms of the added-value services available via a protection policy, 36% agreed that access to a dentist/private dental treatment was the most valuable benefit for their child(ren), followed by virtual GP service (32%), and mental health support (26%). Parents’ priorities reflect what the Health and Social Care Committee, appointed by the House of Commons, described as a “crisis of access” to NHS dentistry; the committee recently called for “urgent and fundamental reform if people are to receive the dental and oral healthcare they need.”

Consequently, one in five (19%) parents regret not purchasing protection before starting their family, with 34% admitting a policy could have provided them with a financial safety net.

Protection Reporter spoke to Imran Afzal, 46-year-old civil servant, about his experience relying on the NHS and how protection could have better supported his family. Imran lives with his wife and two children in the UK. His oldest (18 years old) has been diagnosed with ADHD and his sibling (15 years old) has mobility issues.

“My children’s health is a big worry of mine.”

Personally, Imran has Life and Critical Illness (CI) which he purchased after consulting several price comparison sites over a decade ago. He also has access to employee benefits such as counselling and reasonable workplace adjustments, but these services don’t extend to spouse or family.

Last year, Imran requested annual leave on six occasions so he could take his children to their hospital appointments. He was often refused, forcing him to seek support from a union representative.

“When I requested annual leave, they would often tell me how many other people had taken leave to guilt trip me into not booking it.”

Given that Imran isn’t always able to secure annual leave (which is unpaid), when hospital appointments are cancelled without warning, he’s been left feeling “disappointed, frustrated, and disheartened.”

As well as cancelled appointments, Imran regularly finds himself stuck in 20-minute queues to speak with the receptionist. “Even phoning 111 you’re stuck in a queue which isn’t feasible if you’re having to make the call at work,” he explained.

“Why aren’t GP surgeries open till 8pm to make it easier on working parents who don’t want their children to miss out on education?”

In August 2023, MetLife UK launched ChildShield, an industry-leading standalone product that supports families if their child(ren) were to have an accident or become seriously ill. This proposition was brought to the protection market with a select group of ten distributors, including CoverMyBubble Ltd and LifeSearch.

READ MORE: MetLife UK announce launch of ChildShield

Protection Reporter spoke to Emma Astley, Founder of CoverMyBubble Ltd, about ChildShield and whether more providers should launch standalone children’s cover in the future. Within ten days of the launch, CoverMyBubble sold 79 policies which has, at the time of writing, risen to 158. “It doesn’t take parents long to realise if they lost their income, they don’t have anything to protect their kids if they were to break a bone or needed to spend time in hospital,” Emma explained.

“My clients were all like ‘omg, we need this,’ especially considering the price, what it covers, the flexibility; there are so many ticks for parents.”

Parents can either opt for ChildShield Standard (£6) or Plus (£11) to run alongside any Life, Critical Illness (CI), and/or Income Protection (IP) policies they have in place. In doing so, their children are insured for broken bones, hospitalisation, and seven serious illnesses: bacterial meningitis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatic fever, burns, cancer, paralysis, and benign brain tumour.

Although most of Emma’s clients have purchased ChildShield Plus, she said they’re happy having the choice between two products, “because even £100 can help a parent if they have to take a couple of days off to look after their child.”

“So many families have had kids hospitalised, so they’ve purchased ChildShield to protect against future scenarios after the twelve-month deferral period.”

While discussing added-value services, Emma emphasised that the virtual GP service was unlimited. “We’ve been tagged in so many posts where clients have struggled to get a GP appointment or they’ve had trouble with 111; they want them and they will pay more for it because they know the value of having a GP on hand as well as mental health support,” she said.

“We’ll keep listening to feedback from our clients and when we get out first claim that’ll be something else that might need improving.”

Over the last twelve months, Emma has spoken with several proposition teams about new standalone children’s cover. “Unfortunately, there are women who still can’t get CI due to medical conditions or a higher BMI, so they haven’t been able to get bump cover […] more needs to be done and I’m going to keep banging on at providers until this changes,” Emma concluded.

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