Physical and sexual abuse claims

Sensitivity, empathy and integrity

We are committed to handling all claims made by victims and survivors against the organisations we insure with sensitivity, empathy and integrity

Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive

We insure a broad range of businesses and organisations against many eventualities, principally under our property-related insurance policies and our liability insurance policies. Claims made against the organisations we insure involving physical and sexual abuse (PSA) are typically insured under public liability policies1.
In practice, handling PSA claims made against the organisations we insure is a small fraction of the overall claims we handle. Claims involving PSA represented just 0.5% of all the claims we handled in 2017. 
Nevertheless, managing claims involving PSA is an area that we believe is exceptionally important, demanding particularly sensitive, careful and experienced consideration by a specialist team.
We take this responsibility very seriously and believe our approach to the claims management process is setting the industry standard.  We want to make our guiding principles for handling PSA claims understandable and available to all. 

Role as the insurer

As an insurance company, Ecclesiastical insures a broad range of organisations and businesses, providing property and liability cover in our specialist markets – charity, faith, heritage and education. We insure our policyholders against many different eventualities, including property damage, employer’s and public liability.
When a victim or survivor of abuse makes a PSA claim against an organisation that we insure, involving claims of alleged abuse perpetrated by its employee(s) or representative(s), it is the public liability section of the policyholder’s insurance policy, where it is held, that covers them against the claim.
Once a letter setting out the basis of the claim (“Letter of Claim”) has been received from a victim or survivor by an organisation we insure, it is required to pass the letter to us promptly, which gives us the right to take over the handling of the claim in the policyholder’s name – something that insurers generally do.  Because the claims process is a legal one, we, in common with other insurers, may engage independent solicitors to provide advice.
When we take over the handling of the claim, that does not prevent the organisation we insure from being able to start or continue to offer support and care, including counselling, to the victim or survivor.
We have an experienced specialist team that handles all PSA claims. We allocate each claim against an organisation we insure to a senior specialist claims handler within the team. 

Claims process

When someone makes a claim against an organisation, it is a civil action governed by the laws appropriate to the country in which the claim is made. 
The main parties involved in the claim are the claimant* (the victim or survivor of abuse who is making the claim) and the defendant* (the insured organisation).  
As the claims process is a legal one, claimants and defendants or their insurers are generally advised by their own independent solicitors. We strongly encourage claimants to seek independent legal advice.  View The Law Society’s free Find a Solicitor service. 
In England and Wales, claimants’ and defendants’ actions are governed by the Pre-Action Protocol, which forms part of the Civil Procedure Rules. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own, but similar, Pre-Action Protocols, which we follow as best practice.   
Put simply2, the general claims process in England and Wales follows these stages:
  • The claimant must issue a Letter of Claim to the proposed defendant, which has to include a number of key facts2
  • Once the defendant has received the Letter of Claim, they have limited time to acknowledge its receipt. For example, in England and Wales this is 21 days from the date the letter was posted.
  • The defendant or their insurer then has a further 90 days (beyond the 21 days) to investigate legal liability and inform the claimant of their decision as to whether legal liability is admitted or disputed and, if disputed, why.
  • Because PSA cases are often complex, claimants’ and insurers’ solicitors often make a mutual agreement to extend this 90 day period, in order to obtain the appropriate evidence.
  • Where legal liability has been established and the insurer has been able to value the claim, they will usually make an offer to settle. A meeting with the claimant and their solicitor may be suggested, with the aim of securing an acceptable settlement and resolving the claim as soon as possible.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, the Courts remain available to resolve disputed claims.

Making a claim

We understand how very difficult it must be for the victim or survivor to report or discuss abuse. There are a number of agencies and helplines, many of which operate 24/7, that can offer you advice and support. For details of organisations that can help please see the further information and contacts section of this page. 
If you, or someone you know, want to make a PSA claim against an organisation or someone who has represented it, we strongly advise you to seek advice and guidance from an independent solicitor. Making a claim is a legal process, and a specialist solicitor can guide you through that process. The Law Society lists lawyers and their areas of expertise here.
The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) provides advice and guidance as well as lists of lawyers who specialise in obtaining compensation for the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of children and adults abused in childhood.  
If the organisation against which you want to make a claim is insured by Ecclesiastical, please be aware that you cannot make your claim directly to us – it must be made to the organisation directly and include a number of key facts2. Again, an independent solicitor can advise you on how to make your claim to the organisation concerned.

Guiding principles

We review our claims handling process continually and welcome feedback from victims and survivors who have experienced the claims process (claimants) and the organisations we insure which have had PSA claims brought against them (defendants). This is to ensure the process is as sensitive and empathetic as possible to the distress of the claimant while allowing us to do all we can to conclude matters as soon as possible in a fair and transparent way. 
Our Statement of Guiding Principles enshrines the principles and commitments under which we endeavour to manage the PSA claims brought against defendants, within the confines of the law. It also provides useful insight for defendants and for current or potential claimants.
We were the first UK insurer to make our Guiding Principles on handling PSA claims public. When we published our Guiding Principles in June 2016, we pledged to review them on a regular basis to ensure that they reflect current best practice. A revised version was published in September 2018. You can find our Guiding Principles below.
We expect all third party organisations we engage in connection with PSA claims to adhere to our Guiding Principles.
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Sources of advice and support

Working with others

We are committed to setting the industry standard for PSA claims handling in the UK. As part of this, we believe in working closely with independent inquiries and other relevant bodies to help define and shape insurance industry best practice.
We are cooperating fully with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales (IICSA) and welcome its intention to focus specifically on the claims management and settlement process in due course. We believe that the Inquiry is uniquely placed to gather facts, drive industry best practice and achieve broader change.

How to contact Ecclesiastical

For confidential comments and feedback on your experiences of our claims management process:

The Claims Director
Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc 
Beaufort House 
Brunswick Road

For customers making a new claim, please consult your policy document or email:

For complaints about the claims management process
Ecclesiastical is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Any contact from an individual which constitutes a ‘complaint’ in accordance with the Financial Conduct Authority’s definition will be dealt with in accordance with the rules for Complaint handling in the FCA Handbook under Redress – DISP Dispute Resolution: Complaints.

1Cover against insured organisation's legal liability to pay damages arising out of claims made by members of the public who have suffered injury [or damage to property] during the period of insurance caused either in connection with the business or by its products.
2You can find a fuller explanation of the claims process here
*These terms may vary in Scotland and Northern Ireland