The Sunday Times has published a letter from Mary Woolley in Lynton, Devon complaining that Ecclesiastical Insurance covers her local parish for losses resulting from infectious diseases, but that the policy document’s list of “acceptable” diseases includes smallpox and leprosy but not COVID-19. The policy also covers the parish for prevention of access by government, police or local authority, she said, but excludes closure due to infectious disease.
Woolley detailed how churches are required to be insured by the Church of England and this can be very expensive, as they are public buildings, and often old and listed. Parishioners cover the cost through collections at services and visitor donations, she said, and stated that insurance premiums come to nearly 20% of her parish’s total annual spending, but, with churches closed, there is no income.
“Ecclesiastical will not entertain a claim, following the word and not the spirit of the cover,” she said. “This is pretty rich, given that it is owned by the Allchurches Trust, a registered charity, which says it works for the ‘greater good of all’ and mentions ‘ethical financial services’. The Charity Commission needs to investigate, and the CofE should be leaning on it to act for the ‘good of all’.”
Insurance Business reached out to Ecclesiastical for a comment and a spokesperson for the company has said: “We understand this is an uncertain and worrying time for businesses and organisations forced to close because of the Government’s measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our business interruption insurance typically provides cover for loss of income through damage to buildings through events such as fire and flood, though in some instances it does also provide some cover following the occurrence of a pre-specified list of diseases. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not included on the list of diseases covered by this insurance. This is because, in common with the majority of the market, our insurance policies are not designed and priced to cover pandemics. It would have made them unaffordable as it is simply not economically viable for an insurer to cover such widespread and unknown risks.
“We are working hard to support our customers through this difficult time where we can. We have made enhancements freely available to our cover to support customers, ensuring there are no changes to premium and policy cover for premises forced to temporarily close as a result of Covid-19. We’ve also introduced an automatic extension in cover for 30 days beyond renewal to help protect businesses from becoming unintentionally uninsured. Alongside this, we are showing flexibility and support where logistical issues prevent payment and have produced guidance to help our customers manage their risks during this crisis.
“Going forward, we are ready and keen to work with both the ABI and Government to find a viable solution so that pandemic insurance is available for all who wish to purchase it in the future.”