Home Money Income protection cover helped Tim and Tracey escape poverty, so why isn’t more being done to help couples like them? JEFF PRESTRIDGE asks

Income protection cover helped Tim and Tracey escape poverty, so why isn’t more being done to help couples like them? JEFF PRESTRIDGE asks

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Survivors: Income protection cover helped Tim and Tracey Clarke get back on a stable path

As time goes. Last week I met Tim and Tracey Clarke, a lovely couple who I first met just under ten years ago in an article I wrote about income protection cover.

This insurance provides financial protection (a regular monthly income) in the event of a long-term illness that prevents someone from working. It is something that is both underbought and undersold.

In August, the Clarkes will mark 37 years of marriage and will claim they have never rowed. Maybe it’s their strong faith that has kept them from fighting, but I imagine it has more to do with their fierce love.

However, life for the Clarkes is not easy. Tim, who turns 65 in August, has hearing problems, while Tracey, seven years younger, has optic nerve atrophy, leaving her with restricted vision.

It has a two percent field of view, compared to the normal 180 degrees. “It’s like looking through a pinhole,” Tracey says. “I have good days for my eyesight, but the bad ones are erased as I fight a stabbing pain behind my eyes.”

Survivors: Income protection cover helped Tim and Tracey Clarke get back on a stable path

Tracey has Labrador guide dog Loki to help her when she is away. Sadly, Oakley, the dog they had when I met them, died two years ago. Tim is also Tracey’s designated caregiver.

“She’s a lovable rogue,” Tracey says of five-year-old Loki. The Labrador’s companion is Ossie, a Chinese crested dog from a rescue home in Wolverhampton. Ossie is a trained hearing assistant for Tim and alerts him to potential dangers that his ears cannot detect; For example, cyclists ring their bells on the canal paths.

The Clarkes live on a narrowboat and spend their time leisurely cruising the country’s canals. It sounds idyllic, but the reason they ended up living on a boat was because they had to sell the family home. They hit the financial cushions 13 years ago after Tracey’s eye condition prevented her from working as a pharmacy technician.

Since I last saw them nine years ago, the Clarkes have traded in their 58-foot Sola Gratia boat for one that is 6 feet longer. “We needed extra space,” Tracey says. The improvement was funded by an inheritance left by Tim’s parents.

I met the Clarkes when they became part of a project called Seven Families to raise the profile of income protection cover. Seven families, all affected by long-term health problems, received the funds they would have received if they had coverage.

The monthly income would be paid for up to a year and the organizers of the project (the Income Protection Working Group) were confident that it would show the transformative impact of income protection on each of the family’s finances. And it would highlight the value of the cover. Tracey says the £600 a month they received for being part of Seven Families was a huge help. She allowed them to buy solar panels for the boat, saving on heating costs. They were also able to buy raincoats, vital for life on the canals.

“It took us out of the tyranny of poverty,” he adds. Tracey also benefited from medical support from the ancillary service Best Doctors. The extra money also built confidence. Tracey blogged about Oakley’s exploits and is studying theology. The couple also formed the Accessible Waterways Association to ensure canals cater for the disabled.

Nine years later, has the experience changed your lives for the better? Tracey and Tim aren’t sure. Although Tracey’s desire to write a book about Oakley didn’t pan out, the couple launched a small business selling dog treats, toys and poop bags. Called The Doggie Boat (doggieboat.co.uk), it is marketed online and they also set up shop whenever they moor the boat in a suitable location. “It’s a bit of pocket money,” Tracey says.

However, the couple could not manage without various benefits: personal independence allowance, employment and maintenance allowance and carer’s allowance.

Tim says: “The Seven Families experience was also an eye-opener in terms of what we missed by not having coverage when Tracey’s eyesight started to fail.” But he adds: “I’m still not sure the public is aware of the cover’s existence. The insurance industry needs to do more to convince people that income protection cover can be a financial lifeline if a household is affected. for a long-term illness. He needs to shout it from the hilltops.”

The data suggests that sales of income protection plans are on an upward curve: 16 percent more policies (249,000) were sold last year than in 2022. But the figures are not at all striking and are lower than those of sales of similar financial protection products. such as critical illness coverage and life insurance.

That’s why the Independent Protection Taskforce (funded by some of our biggest insurers) wants to raise awareness of the product both among the public and among advisers who could sell it, but don’t.

Their campaign begins next month coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the birth of the Siete Familias project. Jo Miller, co-chair of the task force, says the key aim of the campaign will be to “raise awareness of the ways in which people can improve their financial resilience should the unexpected happen”.

Independent research indicates that household financial resilience remains alarmingly low, with one in ten adults having no savings at all. Financial protection should be part of the financial arsenal of most households.

It’s too late for the Clarkes. Their great consolation is that Siete Familias gave them a media profile. They, along with other narrowboat owners, star in a new TV series called Narrow Escapes, which will soon air on Channel 4.

For many, living on the country’s waterways is a life choice. For Tim and Tracey, it was a financial necessity. Only a mixture of love and ingenuity makes it work for them.

Forget about Isas this weekend. Just think about financial protection. Do you have enough? If the answer is no, do something about it as soon as possible.

Neil Woodford’s pain continues

None of those involved in the demise of the Woodford Equity Income fund have emerged unscathed from this lingering financial pain, either in terms of reputation or, in the case of investors, financially.

The 300,000 who had money in the fund when it was suspended in June 2019 are receiving up to £230 million in compensation, under a plan agreed between the Financial Conduct Authority and Link Fund Solutions, the fund’s watchdog. Some believe they have been defrauded.

As the regulator explained last Thursday, Link failed to protect investors by failing to ensure the fund had enough cash to meet repayments. It was this that caused the disappearance of the fund. Only by agreeing to pay for a repair did Link escape a multimillion-dollar fine.

As for Neil Woodford, the mastermind behind Woodford Equity Income, the regulator has now confirmed that he and his company, Woodford Investment Management, received a warning notice almost two months ago about possible enforcement action against them. Like Link, it revolves around managing the fund’s liquidity.

We don’t know what action is being considered: a fine, a ban or a slap on the wrist. But Woodford’s lawyers say they will fight the regulator to the end, claiming its conclusions are “fundamentally flawed”. Woodford’s wound continues to cry.

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