Written evidence submitted by Zurich UK

Zurich UK provides a suite of general insurance and life insurance products to retail and corporate customers. We supply personal, commercial, and local authority insurance through a number of distributions channels and offer a range of protection policies available online and through financial intermediaries for the retail market and via employee benefit consultants for the corporate market. Based in a number of locations across the UK - with large sites in Birmingham, Farnborough, Glasgow, London, Swindon, and Whitely - Zurich employs approximately 4,800 people in the UK. 

Zurich UK welcomes the opportunity to respond to this Call for Evidence. Zurich is one of the largest insurers of property in the UK, with significant experience of the risk facing UK’s built environment. As part of our Zurich Municipal business, we are a leading provider of insurance and risk management solutions for the public and voluntary sectors. We provide cover to a large number of housing associations, many of which will provide supported housing.

We would like to focus our comments on the central and local Government funding for supported housing and the availability of data,

Funding for Supported Housing.

Zurich Municipal recognises that the current fiscal situation creates challenges for the provision of supported housing. However, it is important that these challenges do not foster short-termism, especially in terms of risks to supported housing service users, staff or assets. A longer-term view of total cost of risk, to ensure estate remains in good repair and staff properly supported, should be paramount.

Financial constraints and a focus on the short term often means that routine maintenance and proactive resilience work are not prioritised – even though they would prevent problems and save money in the longer-term. As recently articulated by Brigit Phillipson, Shadow Education Secretary, in relation to the funding available for repair in schools: When things are not mended, they break; when buildings break, they cause damage.[1] This is equally relevant to supported housing.

Central Government should do more to adequately support and incentivising a longer-term view of the total cost risk. It may be that ring-fencing maintenance and repair budgets in certain situations would support the adoption of this longer-term focus.

While it is important to keep buildings that provide supported housing well maintained, it is equally important that a framework is put in place to ensure that the accommodation offered is appropriate for the people living there. For example, getting elderly people or those with a disability out of a burning building will need significantly different considerations compared to an able-bodied individual. Zurich has advocated that the vulnerability of the residents should be in an important consideration when determining is a building is high-risk.

Quality of the data available on supported housing.

As an organisation, Zurich is increasingly utilising information like our claims data to provide insight and support data-driven decision making. For example, our claims data can promote better understanding of what are the main drivers of accident or injury in supported housing, enabling us to provide relevant prevention and mitigation advice.

We recognise that the recent National Audit Office report found significant shortcomings in the availability of data on supporting housing. Our experience is that more needs to be done to encourage meaningful data collection across the public sector. For supporting housing providers there are significant benefits to be gained from improving data collection and availability. The ability for supported housing providers to provide more granular information about their estate and customers will also enable insurers like Zurich to provide bespoke support and offer an even greater degree of a risk-reflective premium.

There is also an opportunity for central Government to make more information available publicly. This would enable organisation like Zurich to use this alongside our data to provide even further insight. This could be a useful tool in identifying which risks need immediate attention or greater priority.

I hope the above is of use to the committee. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide any further insight or comment.

June 2023





[1] See Safety of School Buildings - Hansard - UK Parliament