Across the UK, millions of people are living with a range of hidden disabilities – these include autism, chronic pain, mental health issues, learning difficulties and rheumatoid arthritis, Following a pilot in two branches for people with autism, Nationwide has extended the pilot to more branches and covering more disabilities.
The initiative is being piloted in 23 branches across Sussex and Essex. It will also see Nationwide become the first financial services provider to support Hidden Disabilities’ Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, where employees visibly show that they are there to support those with non-obvious disabilities.
To support these members the Society will be:
- Supporting the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard Scheme: The national scheme allows members to self-identify that they have a hidden disability by the wearing of a lanyard. As well as having the lanyards available in the branches supporting the pilot, the Society will also make stickers and pins available that members can place on their cards and/or passbook.
- Quiet hours: During designated quiet periods there will be reduced background noise and greater availability of office space to create a more welcoming environment. This is particularly beneficial to members with conditions such as autism or head injuries as they may be more sensitive to sounds.
- Training: Increased training to allow colleagues to identify and support members who may have a hidden disability.
Mandy Beech, Nationwide Building Society’s Director or Membership Propositions, said: “Many of our members are living with a hidden disability and just by making a few small changes we can make our branches a more welcoming place for them. We are pleased to be supporting the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, which will allow our members to self-identify that they may need additional help. At the same time, we will also be increasing the training of our colleagues around hidden disabilities to ensure they are best placed to support all our members.”
Gemma Day, Branch Manager at Nationwide’s Braintree Branch, said: “My son Lucas has autism and following his diagnosis I became passionate about how I could further support others who are living with a hidden disability. I’ve put much of what I have learned into practice at my branch, including having regular quiet hours and making maps of the branch so members with hidden disabilities and their families could prepare before their visit.”
Paul White from Hidden Disabilities, said: “The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme are delighted to welcome Nationwide Building Society as the 1st financial services organisation to implement the scheme. The wearers of the Sunflower will now be safe in the knowledge that due time, care and patience will be offered whilst visiting your branches.”