Family & Domestic Violence Policy and Procedures

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. UPDATES
  3. POLICY OBJECTIVE
  4. GENERAL INSURANCE CODE OF PRACTICE
  5. TRAINING
  6. PROTECTING INFORMATION
  7. MINIMISING THE NEED FOR REPEAT DISCLOSURE
  8. EARLY RECOGNITION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE
  9. SENSITIVE CLAIMS HANDLING
  10. ACCESS TO FINANCIAL HARDSHIP HELP
  11. COLLECTION ARRANGEMENTS
  12. POLICY COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION
  13. REFERRALS TO SPECIALIST SERVICES
  14. SUPPORT FOR REPRESENTATIVES

 

1. INTRODUCTION

  1. As an Australian Financial Services Licensee we have a legal obligation under Section 912 A of the Corporations Act to provide our services ”efficiently, honestly and fairly”. In addition we are committed to acting as a good corporate citizen with a focus on treating all of our clients in a similar fashion to the way that we would like to be treated.
  2. As part of this commitment we have implemented this Family and Domestic Violence Policy and Procedure. It is also noted that we have an obligation under the General Insurance Code of Practice (The Code) (General Insurance Code of Practice 2020) to have a Family Violence Policy and Procedure in place when we are acting as agent for an insurer, for example when we are acting under a binder or have been provided with claims settling authority.
  3. In Australian law, ‘family violence’ is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) Section 4AB as violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family or causes the family member to be fearful.
  4. In most states and territories, the law recognises economic abuse as a form of Family and Domestic Around Australia, laws are changing to reflect the broader issues confronting people who are experiencing Family and Domestic violence.
  5. Family and Domestic violence means much more than physical violence. It includes emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial or economic abuse; and damage to property.
  6. This policy applies only to our clients that meet the definition of “Retail Insurance” as defined in The Code.
  7. Within this Policy and Procedure “Representatives” means:
    • Our direct employees;
    • Any contractors, authorised representatives or distributors that we have arrangements with to provide financial services on our behalf;
    • Any service providers who we appoint under a claims settling authority to manage claims on our behalf, and
    • Any collections agents that we appoint to collect monies from third parties.

2. UPDATES

  1. These Policy and Procedures are updated on a regular basis. Any material changes to these Policy and Procedures will be advised by management either via Email or at our regular Staff meetings.
  2. This document and associated forms etc. are accessible in soft copy via our computer network. We do not store these documents in hard copy. All information can be immediately accessed on the computer network and will be guaranteed to be up to date at all times.
  3. When you see an opportunity to improve a procedure kindly make the suggestion known to your manager/supervisor as we all have a responsibility to improve our standards, individually and as a Company.

3. POLICY OBJECTIVE

  1. This policy covers the following areas:
    • Making sure that safety is paramount for anyone affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Early recognition of Family and Domestic violence;
    • Training to improve Representatives’ responses to someone affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Protecting private and confidential information of clients affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Minimising the number of times a client affected by Family and Domestic violence needs to disclose information about Family and Domestic violence;
    • Ensuring appropriate and sensitive claims handling processes for claimants affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Ensuring collection arrangements are handled sensitively;
    • Arranging access to Financial Hardship help;
    • Informing clients and Representatives about information and assistance available to people experiencing Family and Domestic violence;
    • Referring clients and Representatives to specialist services; and
    • Supporting Representatives who are affected by Family and Domestic violence or experience vicarious trauma after serving affected clients.

4. GENERAL INSURANCE CODE OF PRACTICE

  1. This Policy supports the General Insurance Code of Practice which requires insurers that subscribe to The Code and businesses that interact with their clients or act on their behalf in providing Financial Services to have internal policies and training appropriate to their roles to help them:
    • Understand if a client may be vulnerable;
    • Decide about how best, and to what extent, they can support a vulnerable client;
    • Take account of a client’s particular needs or vulnerability; and
    • Engage with a vulnerable client with sensitivity, dignity, respect and
  2. This may include arranging additional support such as referring the client to people or services with specialist training and experience.

5. TRAINING

  1. We will ensure all relevant Representatives have ongoing training such that they:
    • Are aware of our policies and procedures when they are engaging with someone experiencing Family and Domestic violence;
    • Identify clients affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Deal appropriately and sensitively with clients affected by Family and Domestic violence; and
    • Apply this Family and Domestic Violence policy related policies and procedures relevant to their role in dealing with clients affected by Family and Domestic Violence.
  2. As clients affected by Family and Domestic violence may be reluctant or unable to disclose their circumstances, our Representatives will be provided with training to develop the skills to help them identify signs that may indicate a client is affected by Family and Domestic Violence.
  3. Possible signs of Family and Domestic Violence are when someone:
    • Appears, or sounds, distressed or scared;
    • Is seen, or heard, to be taking instructions from their partner;
    • Remains silent while another party does all the talking;
    • Does not understand, or is not aware, that cover has been taken out in their name or covering their property;
    • Asks questions about a joint policyholder’s behaviour or activities;
    • Has concerns about protecting their personal privacy or safety, or the security of their policies;
    • Is reluctant to involve the other joint policyholder when making changes to the policy, making a claim or seeking Financial Hardship help;
    • Changes their address frequently;
    • Does not want their physical address recorded;
    • Is consistently late with premium payments; or
    • Discloses the existence of any past or present Family and Domestic violence, or an intervention order or its equivalent.
  4. The way our Representatives deal with clients who may be affected by Family and Domestic violence should facilitate, rather than act as a barrier to identifying Family and Domestic violence and improve the experience of those affected by Family and Domestic Violence.
  5. In particular, our Representatives must not require evidence of an intervention order to trigger the requirements of the Family and Domestic violence Instead, a Representatives should treat a client as the policy requires them to be treated if:
    • The client self-identifies to the Representatives as being affected by Family and Domestic violence; or
    • The Representatives identifies through the sorts of signs listed in Paragraph 3 above that the client may be affected by Family and Domestic violence.
  6. Our Representatives are not expected to be social workers or experts in Family and Domestic However, the training will help Representatives to reduce the impact of Family and Domestic violence on clients.
  7. Training is tailored to a Representatives role within the business and the amount of contact they have with clients affected by Family and Domestic violence. It focuses on developing their knowledge, skills, competencies and information.
  8. Training will help our Representatives:
    • Be more aware of the prevalence and practical effects of Family and Domestic violence;
    • Recognise potential or early signs of violence that may lead to future violence;
    • Have careful and sensitive conversations with a client affected by Family and Domestic violence without disclosing to the perpetrator of such violence that the employee is aware of the Family and Domestic violence;
    • Appropriately triage matters involving Family and Domestic violence. This may require the Representatives to decide as a matter of priority on a claim or whether to provide Financial Hardship help, or promptly escalate an issue to a more senior person;
    • Refer the client affected by Family and Domestic violence to specialist services that can give further guidance;
    • Understand the impact of trauma on a client affected by Family and Domestic violence and in particular, how trauma may affect the way they appear and present;
    • Enable Representatives to engage with clients in a supportive manner;
    • Understand the potential impact, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, that our actions can have on a client experiencing Family and Domestic violence;
    • Understand the need for strict confidentiality and privacy in relation to a client affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Understand the significant and heightened safety risks for women and children during and after a relationship separation;
    • Understand that perpetrators of Family and Domestic violence are clients whose needs have to be managed appropriately; and that they may attempt to convince the Representatives to disbelieve or dismiss someone affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Understand the need for flexible arrangements for, and responses to, clients affected by Family and Domestic violence;
    • Understand the legal and procedural implications of court-issued family and domestic violence orders to the extent that these, impact a claim or the client experience;
    • Know about local referral pathways and contacts for local support services; and
    • Understand, and keep in mind, that a female client affected by Family and Domestic violence may prefer to speak to a female Representative.
  9. We will make sure that any Representatives that are expected to or are requested by us to have dealings with a client affected by Family and Domestic violence are advised of the clients situation where considered relevant to the service being provided.
  10. Any Representative engaged to contact someone who has been affected by Family and Domestic violence must handle the situation with appropriate sensitivity.

6. PROTECTING INFORMATION

  1. We will ensure confidential handling of private and confidential, and personal information about clients affected by Family and Domestic violence in order to protect their safety. These clients need to have confidence that such information particularly their physical address is secure and not at risk of deliberate or inadvertent disclosure.
  2. For clients experiencing Family and Domestic violence, the risk with disclosure of personal information is that abusive partners, particularly if there is a joint policy, can use their current or ex- partner’s personal information to pass privacy screening questions to then obtain that person’s new contact details and continue the abusive behaviour.
  3. To make sure our Representatives do not enable a Family and Domestic violence perpetrator to find out the physical address of a client they may abuse, we will make sure only a client’s email address is accessible to Representatives and have their physical address removed from usual access.
  4. Clients affected by Family and Domestic violence need confidence that the information about their Family and Domestic violence that they share with us and our Representatives is not disclosed to any perpetrator and is accessible only to our Representatives who need to know of the Family and Domestic violence.
  5. The Code requires subscribers and their agents to protect the right to privacy of vulnerable clients who have notified them or their agents of their need for additional support from someone else (for example, a lawyer, consumer representative, interpreter or friend).
  6. We will identify clients affected by Family and Domestic violence in our client management system so that the flag alerts any Representatives who may have to interact with the client that they may be affected by Family and Domestic violence.
  7. We will address privacy and confidentiality concerns for a client affected by Family and Domestic violence, by:
    • Allocate the management of the client to a senior staff member who has undergone the appropriate
    • Ensuring we have systems in place to keep the client’s contact information secure and confidential;
    • Treating all information about the client as sensitive information;
    • Ensuring that any protection put in place applies across all the policies the client holds by asking the client if they have more than one policy or account that needs to be amended due to Family and Domestic violence; and proactively searching for other policies in the client’s name;
    • Giving the client access to personal information held about them within a reasonable timeframe;
    • Giving the client control over how their personal information is shared with third parties;
    • Discussing safe ways to communicate with the client and recording the plan on their file. This may include asking them whether it is a good time to talk or if it’s safe to leave phone messages;
    • Supporting the client to set up new insurance policies;
    • Agreeing to requests from joint policyholders who ask for policy communication and information to be sent to 2 different addresses, whether physical or email;
    • Understanding the legal requirements and internal processes if the client affected by Family and Domestic violence and the perpetrator are joint policyholders;
    • Ensuring the client is informed about the circumstances and nature of information that has to be shared with the perpetrator so that they can make arrangements accordingly;
    • Understanding legal reporting requirements in relation to children; and
    • Protecting the details of Representatives in situations where they may have to contact the perpetrator.

7. MINIMISING THE NEED FOR REPEAT DISCLOSURE

  1. It is important to minimise the number of times a client has to repeat the disclosure of their Family and Domestic violence situation because:
    • Doing so can have a traumatising effect through them reliving their experiences; and
    • They may not always be in a position to talk about their circumstances. For example, because the perpetrator may be present, monitoring their call; or monitoring their web and mobile phone access.
  2. To make sure we and our Representatives minimise the need for a client experiencing Family and Domestic violence to have to repeatedly disclose we will:
    • Minimise the information that the client is required to provide and the number of times they are required to disclose the same information, given that the client may not have access to records and documents that the insurer would normally require;
    • Where possible, ensure the client deals with the same Representatives each time, or to have a single pathway to an appropriately trained person;
    • Provide copies of documents to the client without charge to help resolve matters, or for legal purposes;
    • Work with the client’s agent or representative. For example, a professional financial counsellor, lawyer, community services or social worker, legal aid officer or Family and Domestic violence specialist;
    • Make it as simple as possible for the client to appoint an agent or representative while recognising privacy obligations; and
    • If required, refer the client to a qualified, independent interpreter to assist with communication.

8. EARLY RECOGNITION OF FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

  1. Representatives can play a role in first identifying that a client is experiencing Family and Domestic This can help reduce the impact of the violence. Sometimes the insurer may identify the person experiencing the violence and sometimes the perpetrator, either of whom may be a client or a Representative.
  2. We and our Representatives could be involved in circumstances when indicators of Family and Domestic violence may first become apparent. For example, at claim time and after a major disaster. So, our Representatives will be trained in identifying Family and Domestic violence and to respond accordingly.

9. SENSITIVE CLAIMS HANDLING

  1. If a client affected by Family and Domestic violence makes an insurance claim, then Representatives need to handle the claim with sensitivity, flexibility and care. This is particularly important if:
    • The client and the perpetrator are joint policyholders; or
    • The perpetrator has caused the claim. For example, by damaging the client’s property.
  2. To make sure that Representatives handle the claims with flexibility and care, we have considered the following:
    • The need to clearly and transparently explain to the client the claims process and what is required of them;
    • Having Representatives with adequate authority to make decisions in Family and Domestic violence-related claims — this is useful due to the complexity of the issues raised;
    • That a survivor of violence may come across as incoherent or scattered — this does not necessarily indicate that their claim is invalid;
    • That traumatic events such as catastrophes that result in claims can trigger violence;
    • That the claims process may trigger violence — particularly if the perpetrator caused the damage the claim relates to;
    • Take into account that if the claimant does not reply to communications, it may be because they do not have access to a telephone or email. It does not necessarily indicate fraud or mean they have given up on their claim;
    • That requests for information from the client need to take into account that they may not have access to their personal or financial records, or their other documents;
    • Not require the client to make direct contact with the perpetrator; or make a police report about the perpetrator unless they are comfortable doing so;
    • Ensure that anyone interviewing or investigating a client who may be affected by Family and Domestic violence (or going to their home) needs to be aware that they may be putting themselves in danger; and to be appropriately trained under the investigation standards of The Code; and
    • Before the insurer pays a claim, it should try to make sure it is paying the appropriate party or parties. This can be a particularly complex area in cases of Family and Domestic violence and family law property disputes.

10. ACCESS TO FINANCIAL HARDSHIP HELP

  1. Family and Domestic violence is relevant to Financial Hardship help because it is a potential cause of payment difficulties and it is an eligibility criterion for access to Financial Hardship
  2. If a client identifies to a Representatives that they are being affected by Family and Domestic violence, then the Representatives should ask about the client’s financial situation to determine if they are experiencing Financial
  3. In addition to The Code’s existing requirements about Financial Hardship, if the client is experiencing Family and Domestic violence, then we will:
    • Fast-track the Financial Hardship request;
    • Provide options for the client to retain their policy if they say they cannot pay their premium. Such options may include changing the benefit structure or the sum insured, reducing the benefits, or removing, or altering, benefit options; and pausing premium payments, without cancelling the policy;
    • Ensure policies about assessing Financial Hardship involving joint policyholders are appropriate. For example, we will consider an application from a joint policyholder who is affected by Family and Domestic violence without requiring the consent of the other policyholder;
    • Be aware that the client’s reluctance to obtain consent from a joint policyholder in relation to Financial Hardship help may be the first indication of financial abuse. We will take this into account when responding to any client seeking that help;
    • Where possible, minimise the information and documents that clients are required to provide; and
    • When assessing a Financial Hardship application, not require an intervention order as evidence of Family and Domestic violence. Instead, if we or our Representatives identifies that the client is affected by Family and Domestic violence or the client discloses this information, that should trigger a referral to a Responsible Manager.

11. COLLECTION ARRANGEMENTS

  1. If we become aware that a client’s debt involves a situation of Family and Domestic violence, then we will not refer or sell the debt onto third-party debt collection
  2. If we become aware that Family and Domestic violence is involved in a debt after it has referred or sold that debt to a third-party collection agency, then we will work with the collection agency to provide the best outcome for the
  3. We will assess the options on a case by case basis. The options may include repurchasing an existing debt or taking back a referred debt from a collection
  4. We will consider the risks involved in attempting to recover debts in situations involving Family and Domestic violence, whether from a client experiencing Family and Domestic violence or from the perpetrator.
  5. The Code requires collection agents to comply with the Debt Collection Guideline: for collectors and creditors published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

 

12. POLICY COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION

  1. Clients affected by Family and Domestic violence need to be able to quickly access information about the policies they hold and the support available to them. They are more likely to be comfortable disclosing Family and Domestic violence to us if they are aware of the support systems we have in place and the fact that we can refer them to specialist services.
  2. We will promote our Family and Domestic Violence policy and Financial Hardship support policy to our Representatives and clients.

13. REFERRALS TO SPECIALIST SERVICES

  1. Our Representatives are not well-placed to help with Family and Domestic violence outside the scope of insurance or financial matters. This is because they are not professional social workers or experts in identifying Family and Domestic violence.
  2. Even so, Representatives can play an important role by suggesting to the client that they contact an appropriate external support organisation. Details of such organisations and their contact details can be sourced from each states Health Department or Legal Aid websites.
    • Our commitment is to reasonably assist clients find support networks including where the client may need assistance with financial hardship, stress and mental health, life and crisis support, translation, addiction or counselling.

14. SUPPORT FOR REPRESENTATIVES

  1. Our Representatives may be affected by Family and Domestic violence and require support in the same way that others do. Representatives may be adversely affected either by the impact of the client’s issues or when their interactions with a client cause them to relive their own experiences of Family and Domestic violence.
  2. Representatives also may be perpetrators of Family and Domestic violence and need support to deal with that. We can support Representatives who are impacted by Family and Domestic and domestic violence and manage known perpetrators of violence through:
    • Training;
    • Leave;
    • Additional security measures;
    • External referrals; and
    • Counselling.