About Befriending

Learn more about Befriending and what it means to be a Befriender today:

About the Network

Learn more about Befriending Networks, including staff, board and annual reports:

Befriending & Insurance: An Overview

Befriending is usually a 1:1, lone-working activity, involving a volunteer and a vulnerable child or adult. Despite the fact that this volunteer is trained, police-checked and supported by service staff, befriending is still considered 'high risk' by the insurance industry – not because of the number of claims made (none as far as BNS is aware) but because of the potential for something to happen that might warrant a claim to be made.

There are only a handful of insurance brokers who will provide cover for befriending – typically, WH & R McCartney, Keegan & Pennykid, Ansvar and Zurich.

WH & R McCartney are the only brokers to offer a befriending-specific insurance package. Read services' testimonials on the right hand side of this page.

Befriending and Insurance: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there such a thing as a bespoke insurance policy for the befriending sector?

Yes. WH & R McCartney are an insurance broker that has identified an insurance product which provides cover as well as a cost-effective solution to the issues we face in the voluntary sector. Their services cover befriending and voluntary sector organizations across the UK and you do not have to be a member of Befriending Networks to access their services and extremely competitive rates.

Those buying insurance with WH & R McCartney (ourselves included) have been delighted, as indicated in the testimonials below. If you would like to find out more, why not get in touch with WH & R McCartney on insure@whrmccartney.com or 01698 263162, quoting Befriending Networks, to get free advice now.

Their full contact details are: WH & R McCartney, St. Leonards House, 110-112 Hamilton Road, Motherwell, ML1 3EH

2. Why is there such a wide variation in insurance costs for the befriending sector? Can a benchmark amount be set so that we know when we're being overcharged?

BNS' e-survey revealed that the majority of befriending services are charged between c.£300-c.£1800 for their policies each year. The reason for this wide variation in costs will be due to an almost infinite number of possible reasons: some services will be undertaking 1:1 work, others not; some will have abuse cover, others not; some will have more befriending contact hours each week; some will have a 5+ years history of no claims, others won't etc. These variables also make it difficult to set a 'costs' benchmark for the befriending sector.

What's important is that each service gives as much information about what they do to their insurance provider so that they are getting the best and most cost effective policy available: a good provider, should, for instance, be asking you to fill in a public liability questionnaire where you will be asked for details on your service's size (number of volunteers, staff, board members, income, befriending contact hours each week), the policies you have in place, the recruitment and complaint handling procedures you follow.

3. Do befriending services need to have abuse cover?

It might seem that insurance companies are overplaying the abuse card to make a quick extra buck. But according to the insurance industry, the reasons for abuse cover being needed (and for it often costing extra), are because Britain has become more litigious than the US; public indemnity levels used to be in their thousands – they're now in their millions; abuse claims are often retrospective, extremely complex, involve lengthy legal cases and can stretch back many decades. They can also stretch back to when policies paid out in their tens of thousands rather the millions needed today. Having abuse cover as part of your policy will mean that your cover is linked to inflation and will mean that you know you are covering your service unequivocally against what for many of us would be a nightmare scenario.

4. What happens if my policy doesn't openly state 'abuse' in my cover – would I still be covered (as it's something that isn't listed as not being included)?

Ask your provider this question and get their answer in writing. If you did ever have to put this question to the test, it could take years to get to the bottom of, and you might be liable for paying interim and indeed, overall costs. Such a scenario would also embroil your trustees. If you want to be covered against abuse, you should make sure that this is categorically stated as being part of your policy.

5. What is it about befriending that is considered so risky? Why are there so few providers for our sector?

Volunteers working on a lone, 1:1 basis with vulnerable client groups is considered too risky for most insurance providers. Rather than turn down charities because of this risk, WH & R McCartney and others try to make sure that they understand this risk as fully (and as individually to the service) as they can so that they can assess it accurately.

A good chunk of the insurance sector is ignorant about the work being carried out in the voluntary sector so don't ask the right questions, don't get the right answers, can't then tick the right boxes, so aren't prepared to offer policies.

6. I've just been awarded an Approved Provider Standard. As this means that my risk assessment procedures have been assessed as being sound, will it mean that I can get a discount from my insurance provider?

There are areas of the insurance industry that provide a discount when you can prove active steps to reduce risk have been taken. An easy example of this is fire extinguishers – a certain number of these per property usually equates to a reduction in your premium. A good overall tip to this question it to make sure you are buying a policy from someone who asks you the right questions so that they have a good understanding of the work you are doing. There are things that you can show your provider that might get you a discount e.g. a five-year history of no claims. However, there are also 'what if' scenarios that undermine even the most watertight of risk assessment procedures and insurers consider 1:1 scenarios involving the support of vulnerable people as falling into these.

7. Are there any extras that I could consider including in my policy?

An extra which often gets overlooked and doesn't cost the earth is a telephone counselling package which entitles all your volunteers (and staff) to a free telephone counseling service, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

8. How can I get some free, informed advice on my insurance needs that isn't from a salesperson?

WH & R McCartney have set up a befriending-specific insurance package and as such, should be able to give you the level of advice that you need. Similarly, anyone involved with the befriending sector can phone or email Befriending Networks with their insurance concerns or queries. We can put these to the insurance industry on your behalf and can also make enquiries with our membership.

9. Should volunteers be charged extra for their car insurance?

Historically speaking, volunteers have not been charged extra for their car insurance policies. However, these days, many people are buying car insurance policies based on cost alone and are not aware of the details of the policy they've bought. Many of the 'direct' policies on the market are stripped down versions of the more traditional policies which put car insurance into 3 categories. Anything not on the 'bare essentials' list is often considered an extra and is usually charged for – even something as straightforward as a change of named driver can cost £40 but you won't find this out until you need it to happen. So the best answer to this question is no, volunteers shouldn't be charged for volunteering although yes, they are being charged by some insurance providers and there is no comeback (other than shop around next year) for this if the policy they've bought is a fairly basic one which charges for 'extras'. It's always worth querying if your volunteer does get charged. All services should tell their volunteers to inform their insurance company about their volunteering to ensure that they are covered.

BNS also recommends that services keep a photocopy of all volunteers' driving licenses if they are using their car as part of their volunteering.