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Bridging the Gap: how awareness days begin discussions on critical illness protection

By Craig Brown, Director, Legal & General Intermediary

In 2014 there were approximately 11,400 breast cancer deaths in the UK, the equivalent of 31 deaths a day. While one in eight women will unfortunately be diagnosed during their lifetime, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights the importance of raising public awareness, education, and research on this sensitive subject.

Campaigns like ‘Wear it Pink’ and ‘Stand up to Cancer’ are very successful for fundraising, with the latter raising over £15.7 million last year. Yet the reality is that losing a loved one to a critical illness is life-changing. Awareness months can therefore not only help to raise money for research and care, but also help many people to open up about these topics, which are often difficult to discuss.

For advisers, awareness months provide an opportunity to get in touch with clients that may not have any critical illness cover in place. Our most recent ‘Deadline to Breadline’ research showed that nearly a third of UK employees have no financial back-up plans should they be unable to work due to a critical illness, disability or death. Whilst immediate concerns are certainly focused on getting better, illnesses also bring financial implications that can impact both individuals and their families.

Last year, Legal & General paid out a total of £181,092,000 for critical illness claims. In 2016, cancer was responsible for 63% of female critical illness claims made to Legal & General, while heart attacks were responsible for 85% of all male claims. Yet, worryingly, only 13% of UK employees have a critical illness policy in place.

It’s not just awareness days that provide a good opportunity for advisers to get their clients thinking about their protection needs. Life events and key milestones such as securing a mortgage, moving house, getting married, or creating a will can also be triggers for customers to re-assess their financial plans.. It is vital that clients are offered the right protection at the right time in their lives, and this can change depending on circumstances, such as wanting to start a family or increasing/decreasing income streams. Some critical illness schemes cover children at no extra cost, for example, which may appeal to couples looking to start a family.

Advisers should use these milestones as a reason to get in touch with clients, prompting them to consider whether they would like to review, or even change, their cover to ensure that it still suits their needs and circumstances.

Advisers can stay on top of awareness days, weeks and months by searching for them on, and scheduling them directly into their calendars. By keeping up to date with these events, advisers can get in touch with clients when certain illnesses are topical and at the forefront of people’s minds..

Although sensitivity must be applied when raising the subject in conversation, awareness events play a vital role in helping people to talk about illnesses that have or may affect loved ones. It’s also crucial that we do not forget the financial impact these diseases can have. With mouth cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer awareness month all taking place in November, it is important we get individuals to start considering this type of cover as part of their long term financial planning, and close the Protection Gap once and for all.