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Active Insurance Newsletter

Welcome to our May newsletter. In this issue we have critical Illness insurance as product of the month. Your energy supplier could owe you money. Things to do in Manchester this bank holiday and 10 tips to boost the value of your home.

Product of the Month

Critical illness – the heart of the matter

It’s a testament to modern medicine that a whopping 70% of people in the UK who suffer a heart attack now live to tell the tale. Of course this is an encouraging statistic and many go on to find a new lease of life after the initial trauma. And it’s precisely this that makes critical illness insurance more vital than ever.

After living through a heart attack, many people’s lives are irrevocably changed, so it’s hard to overestimate the reassurance of knowing that financial support is at hand. It can ensure that mortgage payments are covered if you’re not well enough to return to work, provide money for childcare and potentially give you a lump sum to live off while you’re unwell.

Cover for heart problems is the cornerstone of a critical illness policy

More statistics from the British Heart Foundation show that every three minutes someone has to visit a hospital due to a heart attack, and over half a million people alive in the UK today have been diagnosed with heart failure. Couple this with the fact that over a quarter of all deaths in the UK are due to heart and circulatory diseases and you start to see just how prolific heart problems are.

There is no denying that these facts are frightening, but the survival rates I mentioned above and the help provided by critical illness cover offer much more encouragement. Heart problems can make up a quarter of all the claims that some providers pay out for on critical illness policies.

Cover for the family too

For parents, it’s not just their own health that could impact their ability to work and earn income. Statistics from the British Heart Foundation show that 12 babies are diagnosed with a heart defect every day. Of those babies, 8 out of 10 will survive to adulthood, which is obviously wonderful news but the treatment may require parents to take extra time out to care for their child.

Once again, this can put a strain on finances and the best type of critical illness product will also cover the policy holder’s children, reducing the need for parents to choose between providing for their family financially or being there physically to care for a child.

Support is about more than just money

Although so far, I have only touched on the physical aspects associated with having a heart problem, they can massively impact on someone’s mental health too.  Providers (ourselves included) have teamed up with support services such as RedArc. These types of services can come as standard as part of a comprehensive package and can provide practical advice and therapies to help with recovery and also emotional support and counselling to heal any mental scars.

In the case of Old Mutual Wealth, we also support the fantastic Wessex Heartbeat charity, who provide Heartbeat House; a place for the relatives of heart attack sufferers to stay if they have to travel long distances to visit them in hospital.

Cover that goes beyond a claim

Finally, I want to mention the cover reinstatement option. Good policies offer the chance to buy further cover even after a claim, and without the need for further medical questions – a valuable reassurance that support will still be there to alleviate at least some of the concern about suffering a further attack.

Ultimately, the main benefit of a critical illness policy for someone with a heart problem is some financial breathing space. This can then help them concentrate on recovery and hopefully end up being part of the 70% of people who survive a heart attack and find that new lease of life.

Why your energy supplier could owe you more than £200


Energy companies are holding on to £200m more of their customers’ cash than they did this time last year, according to new research.

In fact, energy suppliers owe 12 million UK households a total of £1.5bn, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 12 months ago, new data from uSwitch shows

The price-comparison site has surveyed a sample of 2,000 bill payers and found that 45 per cent could reclaim an average of £126 each, while one in 10 could be owed a rebate of more than £200. Of course, it is normal to accrue credit over the warmer months of the year. It’s one of the ways that energy bills can be kept roughly even, rather than hitting customers with a painful hike over winter.


But the milder winter and spring meant consumption fell, contributing to the rise in credit levels. According to the consumer website MoneySavingExpert, more than 70 per cent of people pay energy bills by direct debit, which helps them access the cheapest rates. However, it does also allow those companies to build up a reservoir of customers’ money.

And they are not allowed to simply keep building up that pot of cash. Energy suppliers’ licencing conditions state that they must take reasonable steps to ensure the direct debit levels they set are fair – which means customers can ring and ask for more information on the amount they pay and how much is in their account.

If an account has built up credit then the supplier must refund if asked, unless they can clearly explain why not.

Very few energy providers pay decent levels of interest on any credit balances and it’s worth finding out if yours does, and factoring it in. For example, OVO Energy customers who pay by monthly direct debit can earn 3 per cent interest on their credit balances in their first year, rising to 4 per cent in their second year and 5 per cent every year after that.


Most people wouldn’t earn any more than that if the money was in their savings accounts and so may not be as worried about asking for their money back. 

Of course, it isn’t a savings account and doesn’t have the protections of a savings account, so it is still a good idea to keep an eye on the balance and stop it growing too high.



Things to do in Manchester over the May bank holiday weekend


We can barely remember what it feels like to work a full five-day week any more, so plentiful have the bank holiday weekends been of late.

But here comes another one, with many of us lucky enough to be off work on Monday next week.

The forecast looks relatively bleak but no matter - there will be plenty on this list that should tickle your fancy in our great city over the coming days, from massive gigs and festivals to an experimental day of shopping where you won't need money.

Even The Osmonds are getting involved...

Friday May 24

Music - Dot to Dot Festival

If you’ve ever found yourself complaining about seeing the same old bands on summer festival line-ups, then Dot to Dot is most certainly the event for you. Spread across three cities during Bank Holiday weekend – it starts in Manchester, before going on to Bristol and Nottingham - the annual festival has become renowned for its strong focus on fresh, emerging talent.

In previous years, then fresh-faced artists such as Wolf Alice, The 1975, Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran have all performed at the festival before going onto major success. Put simply, it’s the one festival where you’re guaranteed to fall head over heels with several new bands and artists you've never heard before.

Judging by this year’s jam-packed line-up, we can surely expect plenty of those musical cupid moments. Featuring 100 plus artists, the festival will be taking over 20 of the city’s most popular music venues including the Albert Hall, Band On The Wall, O2 Ritz, Gorilla, Soup Kitchen, Mint Lounge and more.

Among the more established names on the line-up, there’s appearances from Crystal Fighters, Jordan Rakel, Swim Deep, Dream Wife, The Orielles and Mini Mansions.

Elsewhere, of the newer artists, there’s a healthy contingent of local talent on the bill. Keep your eyes peeled for the brilliant post-punk quartet Lynchs (stars of last week’s CityLife Made in Manchester profile), electronic-folk starlet IORA, Middleton grit-rockers Scuttlers, dream-pop outfit New Luna, and the enchanting acoustic soul singer Ellysse Mason.     

Various venues / Friday, May 24, 1pm to late / £14, more info at –  dottodotfestival.co.uk


Festival - Góbéfest


For a knees-up to end all knees-ups, you'll want to head to Albert Square this weekend. The free annual festival Góbéfest will return to the city, bringing with it a hefty dose of Transylvanian culture. That means folk dancing, live music, chimney cakes, langos, sausages, a puppet show and makers market.

Albert Square / gobefest.com / Friday May 24, 12pm-11pm; Saturday May 25, 11am-11pm; Sunday May 26, 11am-10pm / free

Music - Manchester Jazz Festival


Manchester Jazz Festival, which has this year moved its main hub from Albert Square to St Ann's Square, will continue to fill the city with live music and events across the bank holiday weekend. As well as the festival hub, there are gigs taking place at various venues around the city centre, and an impressive line-up of street food.


One of the first artists signed to Factory Records, A Certain Ratio never quite achieved mainstream success, but their thrilling punk-funk sound influenced countless bands – everyone from Talking Heads to Red Hot Chili Peppers to LCD Soundsystem. Still going strong, the band are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a new box-set release, ACR:BOX, and two special hometown shows at YES.

YES / yes-manchester.com / Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25 / £20 


Clubbing - High Hoops 4th Birthday


Four years on its debut at the now-departed Roadhouse venue, High Hoops has become firmly established as one of the most joyfully inclusive parties on Manchester clubland. For tonight’s big birthday shindig, they’ll be joined by Dutch DJ Carista and New York electronica producer LSDXOXO.

The White Hotel, Salford / thewhitehotel.club / Friday, May 24, 11pm to 6am / £15

Visual arts - RAGE Collective: Resistance in the Digital Age

Curated by the London-based RAGE Collective, this ambitious film and sound installation explores the changes in political activism over the past three decades, drawing parallels between events such as the Tiananmen Square protests and today’s use of digital platforms as methods of protest and resistance. 

Centre For Chinese Contemporary Arts / cfcca.org.uk / 0161 832 7271 / Starts Friday, May 24, runs until Sunday, July 21 / Free

Culture - Our Friends Electrik at The Refuge

With an Urban Decay makeup masterclass, a Whitworth Gallery takeover, Stitched Up's 'wardrobe surgery' and wardrobe swap, and yoga from Lululemon in the beautiful Winter Garden, The Refuge will be pulling out all the stops over the bank holiday weekend.

The Refuge / refugemcr.co.uk / Friday May 24 to Monday May 27 / Most events free, some require tickets - see here for details

Saturday May 25

Music - Sting & Shaggy

O2 Apollo / academymusicgroup.com/o2apollomanchester / 0844 477 7677 / Saturday, May 25, 7pm / £55

Shopping - Stock Exchange at Sadler's Yard


This one-day event at Sadler's Yard will show what the world would be like if money didn't exist. Visitors are encouraged to bring a thing - be it a pizza, a saw, a candlestick or a book - to swap for another thing at the experimental Stock Exchange.

The event organisers say: "We don’t encourage you to aggressively trade your way from a paperclip to a superyacht (please don’t bring paperclips or superyachts)."


Trading will commence at midday in Sadler's Yard, fuelled by DJ sets, outdoor seating, beer tasting and talks.

Sadler's Yard, NOMA / eventbrite.co.uk / Saturday May 25, 12pm-6pm / free

Comedy - Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast


Usually recorded in London’s Leicester Square, Richard Herring’s superb award-winning podcast is now gearing up for a string of UK live shows. For tonight’s Salford visit, he’ll be joined by special guests Sarah Millican and Jimmy Cricket.

The Lowry / thelowry.com / 0843 208 6000 / Saturday, May 25, 8pm / £18.50]


Comedy - Jason Manford


Mancunian funnyman Jason Manford is having an identity crisis – is he still working class, or has professional success elevated him into the realms of the middle class? Find out his conclusions in his latest tour, Muddle Class, another cracking evening of light-hearted anecdotes, misunderstandings and audience banter.

The Lowry / thelowry.com / 0843 208 6000 / Saturday, May 25, 7.30pm / £31


Music - Party on the Pitch


The actual Osmonds are heading to Urmston this weekend, performing at the Party on the Pitch festival. Taking place over two days, the line-up also includes cover artists Small Weller, The Bootleg Beatles, and Definitely Mightbe.

Urmston Sports Club / urmstonfestival.com / Saturday May 25 and Sunday May 26 / £49 weekend tickets, £28 day tickets


Theatre - Journey To The Impossible


Set during the 1980s, this feel-good family show from London’s Little Solder Productions tells the story of three best friends who are magically transported to a strange dimension. Full of cheeky retro references (Walkmans, Donkey Kong, The Goonies), here’s a show which should keep nostalgic grown-ups entertained as much as the youngsters.  

The Lowry / thelowry.com / 0843 208 6000 / Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 / £9


Comedy - Thespianage Live

Creating sketches, characters and scenarios based on audience suggestions, Manchester favourites Thespianage Productions return for another peerless demonstration of off-the-cuff comedy genius. If you’ve never been a fan of comedy improv, then here’s the group to convert you.

Gullivers / gulliversnq.info / 0161 819 2970 / Saturday, May 25, 7.15pm / Free


Clubbing - Homoelectric


Manchester’s number one ‘exotic disco for twisted sleazy people’ is back for a bank holiday blowout, joined by special guests Kath McDermott, Michelle Manetti, Gina Breeze, Ladybeige, Will Tramp and Jamie Bull.

Hidden / hidden.club / Saturday, May 25, 10pm to 4am / £15

Visual arts - Richard Wincer: Shelter

Yorkshire-based artist Richard Wincer is probably best known for his nature-inspired figurative paintings, but his latest work highlights his sculptural talents. An ambitious wood-based installation, Shelter – which will take centre stage at Touchstone Rochdale’s Gallery One space – takes inspiration from Wild West cabins and the modern day housing situation.

Touchstones Rochdale / link4life.org/touchstones / 01706 924492 / Starts Saturday, May 25, runs until Saturday, September 7 / Free


Literature - Northern Publisher’s Fair

The north of England has become a real hotbed of independent publishing talent, and this stellar celebration at Central Library – featuring stalls from the likes of Comma Press, Carcanet, Nine Arches Press, Fine Press Poetry, Wordsmith HQ and more – is a great way to explore the region’s fertile literary scene.

Central Library / manchester.gov.uk/centrallibrary / 0161 234 1983 / Saturday, May 25, 12pm to 4pm / Free


Music - Pie Radio: Live

Pie Radio, an online youth-led radio station in Stockport, will be taking over Soup Kitchen with their own DJs and local up-and-coming musicaians. Soup Kitchen is one of the city's best smaller gig venues and ideal setting to discover some new music talent.

Soup Kitchen / facebook.com / Saturday May 25, 6pm-10pm / £5 in advance, £8 on the door

Sunday May 26

Clubbing - You & Me Greenhouse Party

It’s another bank holiday, which means only one thing – an extra day to indulge your clubbing fix. Here’s one of Sunday’s finest offerings: an all-day You & Me rooftop party headlined by the hugely in-demand French producer Sweely, plus residents Seba & Emile and Jacob Samuel.

Brickhouse Social / brickhouse.social / 0161 236 4899 / Sunday, May 26, 2pm to 10pm / £11-£20 

Monday May 27

Music - Lizzo

She’s been making music since 2011, but Minneapolis singer/rapper Lizzo (real name: Melissa Jefferson) is now finally reaching a wider audience with her superb third LP, Cuz I Love You. Whether she’s belting out epic soul anthems or dancefloor-friendly pop bangers, she’s got the voice – and sassy diva persona – to achieve major superstardom. 

O2 Ritz / academymusicgroup.com/o2ritzmanchester / 0161 714 4140 / Monday, May 27, 7pm / £17.50


Theatre - All I See Is You

Inspired by real accounts of queer life in Manchester and Bolton from 50 years ago, Katherine Smith’s powerful two-hander tells the story of two young men and their conflicting feelings for each other. First staged to rave reviews at the Bolton Octagon last year, the show is now being revived for a week-long run at Ancoats’ Hope Mill Theatre.

Hope Mill Theatre / hopemilltheatre.co.uk / 0161 275 9141 / Monday, May 27 to Saturday, June 1 / £13


Phil Spencer's ten tips to boost the value of your property


How to add £40,000 to the value of your home by spending £4,000: Phil Spencer's ten tips to boost your property

  • Phil Spencer hosts popular TV shows such as Location, Location, Location
  • He says naming your home costs £0 but can add up to £5,000 
  • Another tip of his is cashing in on clutter to make a bonus £1,000 


As a nation, we are obsessed with property. We pore over stories about house prices and love to speculate about how much our neighbours spent on their extension.

So today, Money Mail's must-read How To Get Rich series - which launched on Saturday - will show you how to use your home to its full potential.

In the last part of the series, successful businessmen and women, including City superstar Helena Morrissey, shared their top tips for boosting wealth.


But first we will look at ways to boost the value of your own home without spending a fortune. And who better to help us get started than TV star and property expert Phil Spencer?

He and his co-star Kirstie Allsopp have been a prime-time fixture on our TV screens for nearly two decades, hosting popular shows such as Location, Location, Location. Here, Phil explains how you could add as much as £40,000 to the value of your home with a modest £4,000 budget - and a good bit of elbow grease...


Phil Spencer says naming your home costs £0 but can add up to £5,000

1. Repaint the front: costs £1,000, adds up to £5,000

Never underestimate the importance of 'kerb appeal' — it's the first impression you get when you approach a property from the street. Freshly painted window frames will show that your home is well-maintained and dispel any buyers' fears that more serious problems lurk within. If your home has a rendered finish rather than brick, repainting the front will give it an instant facelift. Hopefully your envious neighbours will follow suit.


2. Do up your door: costs £70, adds up to £1,000


Sanding and repainting your front door in a classic colour such as red or navy will give potential buyers a fitting welcome. If you want to attract younger buyers, take inspiration from interiors magazines for on-trend shades. You can buy a new doorknob, numbering and letterbox in brass or stainless steel for less than £70. Brass adds class on an older property.


3. Name your home: costs £0, adds up to £5,000


Phil Spencer is the presenter of Channel 4's Location, Location, Location

Giving your home a name can be the easiest way to add thousands of pounds to its value, research shows. Regal-sounding names such as 'Crown Cottage' or 'Clarence Estate' are popular with buyers, while pastoral names such as 'Harvest Lodge' or 'Owl Corner' evoke a rural setting. You must contact Royal Mail and your council to formalise the change, which is normally free, and ensure it is locally unique. It's best to keep a number as well.


4. Tidy your garden: costs £200, adds up to £5,000


Start by planting plenty of colourful flowers to welcome visitors in the front garden. In the back, mow the lawn, re-seed bare patches and trim the hedges.


5. Hang mirrors: costs £100, adds up to £1,000

A cramped entrance is instantly offputting, but widening the hallway is expensive. Instead, create the illusion of more space by hanging mirrors. Clear away bikes, coats, prams and shoes.


6. Get planning permission: costs £0, adds up to £5,000

Converting the loft or adding an extension provides the biggest-value boost, but will typically cost between £20,000 and £40,000. Just by applying for planning permission you can sweeten the deal for a potential buyer. It might give a growing family the confidence that they can squeeze in an extra bedroom. A full planning application requires architect's drawings, but, with a bit of research, you can often secure outline planning permission for free by applying to the local planning authority yourself.

7. Kitchen refresh: costs £200, adds up to £5,000


The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house, but a total refit is likely to cost £6,000 or more. Yet a simple makeover can do wonders at a fraction of the price. Repaint or replace the cupboard doors and buy stylish handles and drawer knobs for a fresh new look. Give taps a thorough clean with limescale remover or buy new ones for around £50.



8. Bathroom makeover: costs £2,000, adds up to £7,000

Take a similar approach to the bathroom and focus on the fittings. It's likely to cost more than your kitchen, because of the cost of labour for more difficult jobs such as plumbing and regrouting. Hire a professional unless you are particularly good at DIY, as any leaks are damaging and expensive to fix. Buy a new set of taps for around £50, a power shower for £700 and a new glass screen for £100.

9. Carpet deep clean: costs £30, adds up to £5,000


So long as your carpets are not worn through or permanently stained, you can rent a Rug Doctor machine to bring them back to life. It costs less than £30 for 48 hours, which should be enough time to do the whole house.

10. Cash in on your clutter and make a bonus £1,000


Since you'll be rifling through your home room by room, take the opportunity for a massive declutter — you'll be amazed by how much bigger your home will seem. You can then sell your unwanted books, kids' toys, clothes and furniture on eBay for a tidy profit.

Phil Spencer is co-founder of the property advice site MoveiQ.co.uk. All values are estimates. 




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