Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In response to enquiries from the community of Spiritual Directors, a working party was drawn from AECSD members to explore and discuss these issues. It undertook an ongoing process in which information was gathered and collated for consideration by the council. The council then requested further research and consulted with others both within and outside the Spiritual Direction community.
We explored the possible ramifications for people in ministry, of such current events as child abuse, given an increasingly litigious society. A decision was taken to present to our community a succinct collation of information which is current and factual, to the best of our knowledge.
Below you will find several pages on various aspects of insurance included under that heading.
In regard to group insurance, the current council’s discernment on how it is called to uphold the foundational principles of council’s purpose as a non-registering body:
- fostering spiritual direction
- encouraging the ministry to grow in a healthy way
- providing final standards for the conduct of spiritual direction
does not include becoming the type of body required to manage and administer a group insurance policy on behalf of the community of Spiritual Directors.
We are happy to liaise with, share further helpful information with, any of the associations or a similar group which might like to investigate or pursue that course for the community.
We also ask that if you have any sourced information which addresses any points made in the guide we offer, or in these areas, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank all involved in the original working party, those who have advised them in various capacities, and the council for its support through the process.
On behalf of the AECSD Council,
Former President, AECSD
Public Liability Insurance:
- Any public liability policy which we might hold for our home premises does not extend to directees we see there. In the insurance industry, the direction session is regarded as a business transaction, and a different policy would be required to ensure coverage.
- The policy we have on our home or residence will include coverage for instances of accidental harm to the general public away from home (e.g. an accidental tripping, damage by the point of your umbrella), but not any similar incident caused in the course of practising our ministry.
- If we practise the ministry within another premises, the owners of that place should have their own p/l policy, but we need to be aware that we ourselves, as well as the premises, can be held jointly liable. Some property owners will ask for lessees to provide annual confirmation that the lessee’s public liability policy is up to date and valid – they also can request that the policy be for a specific amount.
- Public liability policies are available which cover the “business” aspect of practising at home, as well as wherever we practise/lead retreats – within our own state, or anywhere in Australia. If either or both of these is what you desire, you just need to specify to the insurance company that this is the type of policy you need.
- If seeking professional indemnity insurance, some companies will require that you take out public liability as well (if so, you might like to check whether proof of any existing policy you have is sufficient).
(generally equates to lower premiums for individuals involved)
- provides a recognizable body in the view of insurance companies
- number of individuals involved can affect premium
- legal advice recommended (by risk assessor and a lawyer):
- around whether to incorporate or not (there are differences between states)
- reducing risk for the insuring body itself and those individuals administering it
- which items on policy schedule would be beneficial
- maintains a membership list or register
- determines criteria for inclusion on list or register. Specifically, criteria which mean something to insurance companies.
- Accreditation &/or training (eg recognised by AECSD)
- The person has worked as a spiritual director in Australia for ….year(s) after completing training
- The person is receiving regular supervision with an experienced (trained?) supervisor
- The person is partaking of …hours of professional development annually
- The person adhered to specific standards of practice and codes of conduct e.g. the Code of Ethics recommended by the AECSD
- The person was receiving regular spiritual ‘direction’ from an experienced, trained direction.
This is not meant to be an exclusive list.
- administers membership list, payments etc. and undertakes ongoing regulation, monitoring of members continuing to meet criteria or not
- negotiates with insurance companies
- refer also to points made for individual insurance.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Individual insurance providers differ in their cover so it is important to discuss your particular needs with the particular Insurer when seeking insurance. The following information is offered to inform that conversation.
- Professional Indemnity insurance generally covers civil cases (non-criminal), it may not cover criminal suits. This may include whether the case is dismissed, or a verdict of non-guilt is declared. Should a civil case be pursued by a complainant, some aspects of bodily harm (physical, emotional, mental) may be covered by either public liability or professional indemnity, depending on various factors. A discussion with the insurance company would be useful to clarify what and how their policy or policies interpret these, and what specifics affects the financial support offered by the policy.
- As with any insurance policy, professional indemnity policies have a “schedule” of options or events which could be covered (generally, 4-5). We have the choice to decide which options apply to our situation, and the number of options we choose does have an effect on the premium cost. Often the rep or company makes those decisions on our behalf from the information we give regarding the activities, nature of our practice.
- Spiritual Direction may be grouped in with what the insurance company deems to be similar modalities within a general category. If it is important to you that spiritual direction is recognised as different to other modalities/ministries, you may want to have a conversation with the insurance company to ascertain whether their understanding is acceptable to you.
- It may also be as well to ask whether the amount insured for is for each individual who holds the same type of policy or for the group as a whole, e.g. if one case results in compensation of $400,000, and the policy is for $1m, is there $600,000 left to cover any extra cases in that year, or is there $1m available for each individual who holds a policy in that year?
- The statute of limitations for a case to be initiated by a directee is 7 years. When retiring or resigning from the ministry, this is another decision to be made, whether or not to continue paying for coverage for 7 years after retiring.
- For anyone who is concerned and wishes to apply for a policy, the following list includes brokers and companies which were indicated in the survey by directors who have accessed individual insurance. Their inclusion here is simply as a passing on of information, and in no way represents a recommendation from AECSD.
- UCI (Uniting Church Insurance). Apply to the relevant state branch.
- IH Group
- Guild Insurance Ltd
- Companies such as QBE, OAMPS, etc. can also offer policies – usually under “Allied Health and Natural Therapists” banner
- AAMI; Allianz Aust; GIO Insurance; VERO Insurance Ltd all mention professional indemnity insurance in relation to businesses only on their web-sites. From its website, Ansvar seems to offer insurance for organisations which are charities.
- Brokers mentioned: AON: Fenton Green
- If the cost of individual insurance is prohibitive for your practice, it may be possible to reduce any risk exposure by considering/utilising the following:
- At the initial meeting with a potential directee, develop together an agreement setting out what each expects of the other, and include a statement which clearly states the nature of the companioning process, and what it is not.The responsibility for drafting such a document rests with the individual director, although many experienced directors already utilise them and could perhaps share what they have. You might also wish to approach a legal practitioner to help in the drafting.
- If you haven’t done so already, you might like to explore the possibility of offering “direction” under the umbrella of an organisation which would provide P/I cover under their own policy – you may be asked to pay a fee, you may also be asked to provide annually, information regarding ongoing formation, professional development etc.