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How Legal & General are giving critically ill children a reason to smile

How Legal & General are giving critically ill children a reason to smile

There’s no doubt that money makes a huge difference to families that are caring for a critically ill child. An insurance payout through the children’s element of a critical-illness policy gives these families options that can make their lives easier and more comfortable. Taking the financial pressure off enables these families to spend time with the child without worrying about working to pay the bills and perhaps being able to afford treats to create special memories that give everyone a lift.

But financial help cannot provide everything that families need during these difficult times. When a child is seriously ill, money can also take a back seat as parents become swept along by a range of emotions and learning how to attend to their child’s medical needs. Family life changes to accommodate the needs of the sick child and new routines that follow from that, including visits to the hospital and clinics. While this can help to steady those early emotional responses as parents adjust to the reality of their child’s situation and throw themselves into providing care, it can also put considerable strain on families – especially those with other children.

Parents or carers will often try to carry on as normal while balancing everyone’s needs – including their own – with the sick child’s care and treatment. Fears about the future can be brushed aside during busier moments when parents don’t have the time to dwell on them, but it may be harder to do that during the quiet times or at night, when everything can seem overwhelming. It can also feel lonely, as even if parents or carers have support from extended family and friends, it may feel as if others can’t fully understand what they are going through because they haven’t lived the experience themselves.

Depending on the age of the child, they too can experience all sorts of worries. They may be anxious about staying in hospital rather than in the family home as normal. They may be in pain and find the prospect of treatment or its side effects scary, or they may have trouble sleeping because they are scared about dying.

These are serious issues for families to contend with, but at the same time, life isn’t an endurance test – it is for living and enjoying the moment. So, if insurers can take the edge off these difficult situations – at least temporarily – by giving families a focal point other than the child’s condition, that is a job well done. It shows families that behind the corporate image conveyed by applications and claim forms are people who care and understand, as they speak to other families in similar situations all the time.

One insurer taking this more personal approach to paying children’s critical illness claims is Legal & General. Last year it launched Project Smile, an initiative where for every claim paid that relates to a child’s critical illness, Legal & General sends a gift to the child to cheer them up.

Rather than just taking care of the paperwork, the insurer wanted to show families who are making a claim that the people who get to know them while dealing with their case are thinking of them. In its first year, Project Smile has sent 56 gifts to the children of policyholders, whose ages range from under a year old to 19. 

Gifts are chosen with the child’s age, personal interests, and their health condition in mind to ensure they are appropriate. For example, a little boy who enjoyed watching films with his sister was sent an extra-large beanbag so they could watch films together in greater comfort.

Vouchers have proven a popular choice of gift among older children as it is just as fun deciding what to do with it as it is receiving a gift. One teenager who enjoyed going out for meals was sent a Nando’s voucher by Legal & General, while another who was interested in fitness and wanted a pair of Nike trainers was given a Nike voucher. Among younger children, Peppa Pig toys are a firm favourite.

To make the experience extra special, Legal & General arranges for the gifts to be wrapped with a personal message from the claims handler and they are sent directly to the children at home. However, the insurer understands that some of the children are suffering from a serious illness and might be extremely clinically vulnerable, so it may not be suitable for a gift to be sent. In these circumstances, there will be ongoing discussions with the parents to see what, if anything, would be appropriate. 

“A critical illness can affect anyone at any age and can turn families lives upside down, especially if it’s involving a child,” says Karen Fuge, Head of Claims at Legal & General Retail Protection. “Project Smile is about doing the little things that make a big difference, like sending a gift-wrapped toy and personal message to bring a smile to a child’s face.”

Fuge sees value-added benefits are crucial to customer retention given the rising cost of living. “It’s tempting to see critical illness cover as a nice-to-have and something to sit alongside your life insurance, but it’s about ensuring you’ve got money to help you or your family cope with an illness in the future,” she says.

An increasing number of insurers have and are implementing similar initiatives. Recognising that having a seriously ill child takes its toll on the whole family, claim teams will get to know the family and send appropriate gifts to the parents and siblings, such as restaurant vouchers and teddies, as well as the sick child.

Initiatives like Project Smile are a great way to show that insurers are not faceless institutions but are made up of people who care. They can help protection advisers in conversations with clients at the point of selling a critical-illness policy and at the point of claim, as they illustrate how policies are not just about money but are also a source of additional support.

About The Author


As well as writing for Protection Guru, Amanda Newman Smith is the feature writer at adviser trade publication Money Marketing. She started her career at a local newspaper in London and has been writing about protection products since 2000. In her previous role at Money Marketing she specialised in analysis of new financial products, including those in the protection market. Having recently become interested in antiques, Amanda spends her free time with her husband and their three children, hunting for unloved pieces to restore to their former glory.

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