A third of us are sick – are you protected?

36% of working-age people have a long term health condition – up from 31% in 2019. 2.5 million people are economically inactive because of long term sickness – up 400,000 since the onset of the pandemic. Following usual patterns, the aging population would have meant 40,000 extra people would have been inactive because of long term sickness between 2019 and 2022. In fact 462,000 were.

The ONS has released data on ill health and economic inactivity: Rising ill-health and economic inactivity because of long-term sickness, UK – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Nobody wants to consider the possibility they’ll ever get sick. It’s why we tend to make plans for a long, healthy, active life and try to forget about any alternatives. Unfortunately, with a third of people carrying a long-term health condition, and 2.5 million who are too sick to work, it means there’s every chance you’ll need a plan B.

The rise of sickness absence means we all need to consider what would happen if we were too sick to work. This includes looking at what you might get from your employer, in terms of sick leave for shorter illnesses and income protection if you’re off for longer periods. If it’s nothing to write home about, you may need to consider personal cover – like personal income protection, which will cover a proportion of your income for a period if you’re too ill to work.

The good news is that the HL Savings & Resilience Barometer shows 77% of people have enough of this cover in place. However, among self-employed people this falls to 33%, among the lowest earners it drops to 23%, and among those aged 20-24 it’s only 62%. You could also consider critical illness cover. This is a lump sum that pays out on the diagnosis of specific illnesses. Only 22% of people have this insurance, according to the Barometer, and they tend to be focused within the top two fifths of earners.

If you are unable to work for a period, your emergency savings safety net can also provide vital support. It’s why those of working age should have 3-6 months’ worth of essential expenses in an easy access account, just in case. The Barometer shows that almost two thirds of us have enough emergency savings (64%). However, lower earners, singletons, and younger people are more likely to fall short. Only 31% of those aged 20-24 and 56% of those aged 35-39 have enough savings to be resilient.

You also need to think about your pension, and whether you could make it stretch if you were forced to stop work earlier than planned because of ill-health. Unfortunately, this is likely to be an uncomfortable calculation for many people, because the latest HL Savings and Resilience Barometer found that only 39% of households are on track for a moderate retirement income – down from 42% just six months ago. It means that if most of us were forced to retire earlier, our pensions would fall even further short.


The key is not to see your position and panic. Consider whether you can afford to boost pension contributions to put you in a better position further down the line. If that’s too much of a stretch right now, you could make sure that next time you receive a pay rise, or a lump sum, you consider your pension as a priority. You can also think about any other assets you could call on at that point – and whether you would need to dip into savings or the value of your property. It’s not an ideal approach, but it’s only going to kick in if you’re too sick to work, in which case you won’t be looking for ideal – just the best possible outcome in horrible circumstances.”

The Right Mortgage revamps Consumer Duty Hub with new resources and support for member firms

The Right Mortgage & Protection Network has announced a full revamp of its Consumer Duty Hub for member firms, adding further resources and support ahead of the 31st July deadline for implementation of the new rules.

The refreshed Hub now contains a range of additional resources, sales aids and pre-approved marketing templates which can be easily downloaded and personalised with the individual firm’s brand colours, logos and contact details.

Documentation recently added includes: a Welcome Park for clients with a new Terms of Business; a ‘Have you got the cover you need?’ pack for protection and insurances; an Insurance Declaration Form; anniversary statement sales aids template; various promotional videos; annual review email templates; a range of new social media posts; and one-page product guides.

The Consumer Duty Hub is split into four distinct aspects covering resources which focus on the relationships between firms and their clients including: products and services; price and value; consumer understanding; and consumer support.

There are also Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on the Consumer Duty, an adviser toolkit dedicated to helping firms demonstrate how they clients at the heart of their business, a Consumer Duty poster for consumers, plus other templated documents covering a range of products and services.

The Right Mortgage has also introduced a number of Consumer Duty implementation policy changes to ensure all member firms are consistently delivering the very best consumer outcomes.

Ben Allen, Compliance Director at The Right Mortgage & Protection Network, commented: “We are now just a week away from the Consumer Duty implementation deadline for the end of July, and it’s vitally important advisory firms continue to keep working towards this, evidencing the work they are carrying out, the changes they are making, and how this works with the new rules and, importantly, how this delivers positive consumer outcomes.

“At The Right Mortgage we continue to add support and resource to our Consumer Hub, which has been revamped, and which now contains a wealth of information and tangible templated documentation that firms can use across many aspects of their service and product provision.

“We’re asking all members to ensure they continue to take Consumer Duty seriously, and to integrate these new requirements into their existing process, and they are able to evidence the changes they are making, and how it helps them comply with the new rules.

“Consumer Duty has been a journey, and even with the passing of a deadline, there is a continued focus on what the regulator wants us all to achieve, namely putting customers at the heart of our business and working to achieve good customer outcomes.

“We’ll therefore continue to support and collaborate with member firms, providing them with more resources, sales aids, and templates to ensure they are fully up to speed and evidencing how they are meeting these outcomes, and how they are ensuring their clients are seeing the positives of this new approach. We recognise this is a key benefit of being one of our member firms and have a strong commitment to delivering quality in this area for all.”

The reality of rent rises

Almost two out of 10 buy-to-let landlords (18%) said they would not raise rents for their tenants if their own mortgage rate increases when they come to remortgage.

Two out of 10 landlords (21%) were unsure what to do and 61% said they would raise the rent, according to research undertaken by Landbay.

Over the past year, three quarters (76%) of landlords said they have raised the rent with the main reason, cited by half of them (51%), being to cover higher mortgage costs. A quarter of landlords (24%) said they raised rents on the advice of their letting agent.

Other reasons were to cover maintenance and repairs, an increase in taxation or energy bills, while some landlords always raise rents once a year.

The most likely rent increase, according to 38% of respondents, is between 6% and 10%, while 27% said they would only increase the rent by up to 5% maximum.

For those landlords who are not raising rents at the moment, they don’t need to as their rental income covers their mortgage and other outgoings. However, some said they are out of pocket but have taken the hit because they don’t want to lose good tenants. Meanwhile, others are delaying the rental increase for as long as they can.

Paul Brett, managing director, intermediaries at Landbay, said: “Many landlords, whose mortgage interest rates are increasing, find themselves in the position of having no alternative than to put the rent up in order to cover their outgoings.

“Mortgage costs obviously play a big part in landlords’ expenditure and there is a lot of remortgage activity this year. Our latest product development of like-for-like two-year fixed rate remortgages will help landlords, as the stress test we have to apply for affordability is based on pay rate plus 1%, instead of the more usual 2%.

“In fact, we are seeing more landlords opting for two-year terms, which is why we have also launched two-year discounted trackers with no early repayment charges. Borrowers can leave their options open with the opportunity to move onto another product at any time if mortgage rates improve.”

Linda Edwards elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Institute of Economic Affairs

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Board of Trustees are pleased to announce their unanimous election of Linda Edwards as the new Chairman.

Linda Edwards brings a wealth of experience in organisational governance and a deep commitment to advancing the fundamental institutions of a free society.

Neil Record steps down after 15 years of dedicated service on the Board and 8 years as Chairman, overseeing significant organisational growth.

Chairman Linda Edwards said: “I pay tribute to my predecessor Neil Record, who is stepping down after a period of phenomenal leadership and dedicated and often thankless service. He has grown the efficacy and impact of the IEA during his tenure. I am deeply humbled to follow in his footsteps and excited to be taking on the role of Chairman.

“The IEA has served a vital role in promoting the institutions of a free society not only in the United Kingdom but also throughout the world. We stand on the shoulders of giants in promoting ideas that have lifted billions of people out of poverty and fostered immense human flourishing.

“As the UK faces immense economic challenges, both new and old, the IEA continues to educate students, teachers, policymakers and the public.”

Director General Mark Littlewood said: “Neil Record has been a superb supporter of the IEA as a trustee for fifteen years and a brilliant leader for eight of them as our Chairman. His advice, guidance, intellectual insight and business skills have been invaluable to me as the IEA’s Director General, as well as his immensely cherished friendship.

“I was pleased to be able to celebrate his 70th birthday with him recently – the truth is that he could easily pass as a man twenty years younger. Neil has enormously contributed to British public and political life and is one of our country’s leading philanthropists. I know he will make an even greater contribution in the years ahead – especially in the areas of market economics, environmental policy and freedom of speech.

“His tenure as IEA chairman has been exceptional and all of us at the Institute are incredibly grateful for his contribution and wish him every further success in the years ahead.

“I’m thrilled that Linda Edwards has agreed to become the IEA’s new Chairman. She has been an enormous presence in the freedom movement for many years. Her strong connections to a wide range of organisations, including Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and the Atlas Network, testify to her boundless commitment to individual liberty. I eagerly look forward to working with her in taking the IEA to still greater heights.”

Former Chairman Neil Record said: “After eight years as IEA Chairman and fifteen as an IEA Trustee, I have decided to step down. I leave with continuing admiration for the work of the IEA, but sadness knowing that I will miss working with such a talented group of individuals.

“I want to make particular mention of Mark Littlewood, our Director General, who has so ably led the IEA for more than a decade, enormously raising its profile and its impact in the national arena. I look forward to continuing to support the IEA, helping restore our beautiful historic home in Lord North Street and promoting public sector pensions transparency and reform.

“I am a great believer in term limits for volunteer posts and I have completed my eight years term limit as Chairman. My successor, Linda Edwards, has been a Trustee for four years, and an active supporter for much longer. She is a passionate advocate for our free market agenda and I am confident she will successfully lead the IEA into the future.”

FICO Wins Innovators 2023 Award from Global Finance for Blockchain in AI Model Governance

FICO has been named one of The Innovators 2023 for its use of blockchain to manage and monitor AI development. The 11th annual awards from Global Finance honor the world’s most innovative banks, most innovative fintechs, and the greatest financial innovations of the past year, as determined by a team of Global Finance editors and researchers.

Developed and patented by FICO’s AI Innovation and Development team, Blockchain for AI Model Governance uses an immutable blockchain ledger that tracks end-to-end provenance of the development, operationalization and monitoring of ML models. The technology enforces the use of a corporate-wide responsible AI model development standard by organizations, and demonstrates adherence to the standard with specific, requirements, people, results, testing, approvals and revisions. These are all tracked to an immutable blockchain to solidly demonstrate compliance with model development standards, compliance testing, and responsible AI. The AI model governance blockchain enables auditable AI requirements to support governance, regulators, monitoring, and remedy of production issues. This technology is used across FICO’s analytics teams, and is being made broadly available to FICO clients via FICO® Platform.

“This innovation was inspired by a need to ensure that data scientists and their corresponding organizations follow the defined responsible AI development standard supporting robust AI, interpretable AI, ethical AI, and auditable AI standards,” said Dr. Scott Zoldi, chief analytics officer at FICO and co-author of the patent. “This is used during the AI model development process – not a post-hoc process – and the AI model governance blockchain provides the essential metrics and data to meet operationalization standards for compliance, governance, and production monitoring for responsible AI usage.”

FICO’s third annual State of Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Financial Services report, developed in collaboration with market intelligence firm Corinium, showed that while 52% of respondents say that demand for AI products and tools is on the rise, the vast majority (71%) have not implemented ethical and responsible AI in their core strategies. 43% of respondents said they struggle with Responsible AI governance structures to meet regulatory requirements.

“Regulatory challenges are certain to come, given the plans for an EU AI Act, as well as increasing possibilities of regulation in the US and other countries,” said Zoldi. “Businesses developing AI today need to get ahead of regulation by creating corporate standards for responsible AI development. They need to know how their models make decisions, what data goes into the models, what latent features the model is leveraging and show proof of compliance and governance testing.  Blockchain enables you to capture all of this in an immutable record and is essential for auditable AI practices.”

In deciding the award for FICO, Global Finance also noted the extensive number of patents granted to FICO for AI-related innovations. FICO was recently granted 9 patents related to digital decisioning in the areas of fraud, AI and machine learning technology. To date, FICO’s patent portfolio consists of 217 active patents, with an additional 72 patent applications filed and pending.

FICO’s use of blockchain for AI development and governance also received a “Highly Commended” status in the Financial Services Forum Awards 2023 in two categories: Best Innovation in Use of Technology and Most Innovative Company of the Year.

In May, FICO unveiled 19 major enhancements to its industry-leading FICO® Platform, the most powerful and proven foundation for applied intelligence. FICO Platform powers enterprises to drive the most critical, strategic business outcomes across the customer lifecycle. FICO Platform received placement as a leader among top providers in “The Forrester Wave™: AI Decisioning Platforms, Q2 2023” report.

Sigma Connected employees select national foodbank for charity partnership

Business outsourcing specialist Sigma Connected has announced a 12-month partnership with national foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust.

Sigma Connected, which provides contact centre services for the utilities, retail, telecommunications and financial services sectors, selected the charity through an employee vote.

The company’s UK based employees will be able to donate between £1 and £10 each month from their salary to the charity which supports thousands of people across the UK with emergency food supplies and practical support.

Sigma Connected will also be hosting a webinar with the Trust to help promote a deeper understanding of their services.

Mike Harfield, chief operating officer at Sigma Connected said: “One in seven people in the UK have faced food hunger and financial hardship over the past year due to the soaring cost of living. That has meant the essential work of the Trussell Trust has been in the spotlight more than ever as they do everything in their power to support thousands of people every week.

“Giving our staff the opportunity to vote for the good causes they want us to support is a key part of the way we connect with our communities. Through the votes for the Trussell Trust it was clear that hundreds of them recognise the impact food banks and additional support can provide people who are struggling.”

Dave Sculthorpe, Events and Engagement Manager at The Trussell Trust added: “The Trussell Trust is proud to partner with Sigma Connected, we are excited to work together to raise funds and change perceptions of food bank use in the UK. Their employees will raise vital funds for the Trussell Trust which will help us end the need for food banks in the UK.”

New figures released in April by the Trussell Trust revealed that almost three million emergency food parcels were provided to people facing hardship between April 2022 and March 2023, with more than a million of those being for children. This is the most parcels the charity’s UK-wide network have ever distributed in a single year and represents a 37% increase.

The Trussell Trust website is available through https://www.trusselltrust.org/

ONP announce key hire to strengthen industry partnerships

ONP Group, one of the UK’s leading conveyancing firms, has strengthened its senior management team with the appointment of Sharon Beedham as Group Partnerships Manager.

Sharon joins from Optima Legal, and her distinguished 30-year career brings a wealth of legal and operational expertise to her new role. Sharon will report to ONP’s Group Partnerships Director, Mark Tosetti, who she worked with previously.

Working closely with ONP’s partners and internal stakeholders, Sharon will build on our existing strong relationships to further support the firm’s growth strategy. In addition, she will be responsible for overseeing the internal partnership management framework.

Industry veteran, Mark Tosetti, who spearheads ONP’s new approach to partnerships, commented: “I have known Sharon for many years, and welcome her to our team of brilliant people at ONP Group.

“Her dedication and remarkable achievements in the conveyancing space made her the ideal choice to lead our partnership initiatives.

“Sharon’s exceptional leadership skills and profound understanding of the industry will be invaluable as we continue to revolutionise the way partnerships within conveyancing are approached in a digital era.”

ONP Group has recently undergone a significant restructuring of its leadership team, marking a pivotal moment in the company’s approach to conveyancing. This strategic shift aims to redefine the industry landscape and create an exceptional level of service for both brokers and clients. Sharon’s addition to the team further reinforces ONP’s commitment to delivering exceptional quality and driving innovation.

Commenting on her appointment, Sharon Beedham stated: “It is a superb time to join ONP’s dynamic team and their forward-thinking, tech-driven approach to conveyancing.

“I look forward to working with Mark again, and leveraging my experience to develop strong partnerships that will drive innovation and deliver exceptional value to our clients.”

ONP Group has gained significant recognition for its use of innovative technology to streamline the conveyancing process, providing brokers and clients with a seamless and efficient experience.

The firm’s recent restructuring has further positioned it as a market leader, steadfast in its commitment in delivering exceptional service and embracing digital transformation.

Sharon’s appointment furthers ONP’s ethos of hiring brilliant people that share the firm’s transformative attitude.

Majority of landlords do not intend to sell any buy-to-let properties

The majority of buy-to-let landlords (64%) are not planning to sell any of their properties in the next 12 months, latest data from the Landbay quarterly survey has revealed.

The strongest sentiment was found among landlords with individual properties (75%) and those with smaller portfolios of two or three properties (69%). However, almost the same number of landlords with more than 20 properties (65%) shared the same intention.

Meanwhile, the number of landlords planning to sell some properties increased slightly to 30% – from 28% in the previous survey. Only 6% plan to sell all their properties with respondents split across small, medium and large landlords.

As to be expected, the deciding factor for 60% of landlords intending to sell is rising interest rates – an increase from 45% in the previous survey, while almost half (45%) said rent doesn’t cover their mortgage costs – up from 28% in the Q4 2022 survey. Respondents also mentioned landlord taxation (47%), the cost of meeting the proposed EPC requirements (40%) and worries about evicting tenants (34%).

The findings form part of Landbay’s latest quarterly survey which aims to find out the attitudes and intentions of existing landlords. Respondents were quizzed on a range of topics to determine the key factors facing the sector and their thoughts on the future of the buy-to-let market.

Paul Brett, Landbay’s managing director, intermediaries said: “While it’s certainly the case that some landlords are trimming their portfolios in the current climate, our latest data demonstrates that the majority are not looking to make any cuts at all. This is positive news for the wider housing market which is so reliant on rental supply. After all, one-in-five houses in England and Wales depend on the private rented sector (PRS) for housing.

“As a specialist buy-to-let lender, we are always looking at ways to innovate to not only support buyers, but those landlords set to remortgage. With high levels of maturity in the buy-to-let market this year, there will be many weighing up their options in a higher interest environment.

“For those considering selling, we’d always say it’s worth their time speaking with a broker to find out what is their best possible move, especially when there’s lenders like us willing to innovate and find solutions to support landlords in all situations.”

Together promotes Corporate MD to group-wide strategic role

Together has promoted experienced corporate finance expert Chris Baguley to a new role driving future growth for the £6.2billion specialist lender.

Chris has now taken up the position of Group Channel Development Director, a new role to provide strategic support and to launch new initiatives, aimed at further building the business’s brand across commercial and personal finance markets. Chris will continue to drive thought leadership across the industry and continue to build out the business proposition to its customers, colleagues and business partners.

Having joined the Cheadle-based property lender in 2006, his most recent position was Managing Director of Corporate. He previously held senior posts at Manchester Building Society and Yorkshire Bank, where he specialised in commercial banking, during a career spanning nearly 35 years.

In his new role, Chris will explore new opportunities for growth across Together’s established sales channels and raise its profile and strong reputation across the UK market. The role will support the group towards achieving its ambitious growth objectives over the next five years and also explore new markets, as the business continues to deliver record levels of growth.

Chris said: “It’s a huge honour to be taking up this new post within such an amazing business and I am proud to have been part of the journey to drive this forward over the past 17 years”.

“I’m looking forward to exploring ways in which I can help deliver Together’s growth ambitions across the wider UK lending marketing; driving a collaborative approach across each business area in the group as we deliver on our plans for the next five years.

“This is an exciting time for the business as we look to develop our presence across the UK, and continue the incredible growth we have achieved in recent times.”

Marc Goldberg, CEO of Group Sales and Distribution at Together said: “Chris is a long-standing and much-valued member of our senior team at Together, and we are incredibly excited to see him stepping into this new role.

“His experience, drive and passion for everything we do as a business will continue to be an asset to Together, and we are excited to see what he can bring to this new position.

“He will be ensuring that the Cheadle-based lender’s customers and partners remain at the heart of everything at Together, regardless of which channel they come through.”

Renters (Reform) Bill delayed until autumn: letting agents urged to add their voice

With parliament’s summer recess rapidly approaching, the upcoming parliamentary schedule does not have room for the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill, when MPs will be able to make amendments and ask questions to Housing Minister Rachel Maclean MP.


While the Bill has not returned to the Commons for a second reading, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has seized the opportunity to question Housing Minister Rachel Maclean and her team from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) on the details of the Bill. The committee asked questions about key policies, such as extending the Decent Homes Standards to the PRS and outlawing discrimination against tenants with children or receiving benefits, which were missing from the Bill despite being included in the government’s official guidance.

The expectation is that these policies will be added as amendments during the second reading, but there is concern from the industry that it will not leave enough time for proper parliamentary scrutiny of these important policies.

Bill’s provisions already filtering through

Meanwhile, there has been some movement from the government on some aspects of the Bill. Originally, a tenant that challenged a Section 13 rent increase in court could either be ordered to pay the new rent or get it decreased, whereas tenants could now face the prospect of the courts further increasing the rent. This could help put off spurious challenges and reduce the potential number of court cases.

Also, under questioning from the committee, the DLUHC team gave new details on the proposed Ombudsman, including that it would operate as a non-profit and that they had not ruled out a combined agent/tenant/landlord redress scheme.

Agents need their say

“A lot of the important details are still up in the air,” says Neil Cobbold, Managing Director, PayProp UK, “And with the Bill not getting its second reading until at least September, this gives agents the summer to get organised and share their views with their MPs.”

As part of PayProp’s push to promote the views of lettings professionals as the government reforms the industry, the company hosted an informal roundtable discussion with Andrew Lewer MP, member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, and senior representatives from Belvoir, Dexters, Foxtons, Knight Frank, Leaders Romans Group, LSL Property Services, Savills, and The Property Franchise Group.

PayProp is also asking for the views of all letting agents in their survey, Life after the Renters (Reform) Bill, promising to present the results to the government, MPs and peers, to highlight the issues letting agents feel this Bill will create.

“We’ve already seen the government make changes based on feedback from the industry, so the more voices we have, the better the chance lettings professionals will be consulted on this bill and future changes to the industry,” concludes Cobbold.