17 May 2023

Nationwide first to offer dedicated support for customers with communication difficulties

  • Nationwide first high-street banking provider to launch support for customers with communication difficulties
  • The scheme, called ‘Speak Easy’, will be piloted in 10 branches across Greater Manchester
  • Branch staff will receive specialised training to support non-speaking people
  • One in five people across the UK will experience a communication difficulty at some point in their lives

Nationwide Building Society has become the first financial service provider in the UK to offer dedicated support for customers with communication difficulties.

Launched at a time an estimated one in five people across the UK will experience communication difficulties1, the Manchester pilot will provide communication aids and branch colleague support to met the needs of members,

The service, called ‘Speak Easy’, consists of a custom-made set of printed cards with phrases and pictures. It will be available in branch for customers with communication difficulties – from those who are non-speaking to people who struggle to speak due to a range of causes, from autism and cognitive disabilities to stroke or motor neurone disease and aphasia2. The cards were developed in partnerships with a range of key charities.

Nationwide customers can use the cards to ask a range of common banking questions, such as asking for financial support and advice, reporting a lost or stolen card and even asking for help to understand if they have been scammed. Branch colleagues in the pilot areas will receive specialised training to help support customers use the tool ad support them with their needs.

Speak Easy will be piloted in 10 branches across Greater Manchester from 15 May for three months3. If successful, the scheme will then be rolled out across Nationwide’s network of around 600 branches.

In 2020, Nationwide launched its partnership of the Disability Sunflower lanyard scheme which aims to support those who have non-visible disabilities in accessing appropriate services and support. The Speak Easy pilot builds on the aims of the Sunflower Scheme by providing a further practical way to aid communication difficulties in face-to-face settings.

Mandy Beech, Director of Retail Services, said: “We recognise that many of our members may be unable or have difficulty speaking and by having this tool available, we can make our branches even more accessible. By allowing our non-speaking members to have a voice, we can support them and meet their needs more effectively by giving them the confidence and reassurance of coming into a branch. We hope to take learns from this pilot with the aim of extending the scheme across all our branches, so we can help support more of our members across the UK.”

Jennifer Gardner, Associate Director for the Northwest at the Stroke Association, said: “We want to thank everyone at Nationwide who has been involved with this pilot scheme. It’s fantastic to see the Speak Easy tool being rolled out across Greater Manchester and we really hope it’s one thing that can help make a big difference to the daily lives of people living with aphasia.”

Notes to editors

Notes to editor

[1]Communication Access UK – Inclusive communication for all (communication-access.co.uk)

[2 Aphasia is a complex language and communication disorder resulting from damage to the language centres of the brain. It has multiple potential causes but stroke is the biggest – in fact 40% of stroke survivors will develop aphasia soon after their stroke. Although the most obvious symptom of aphasia is the effect it can have on speech, it can also impact the ability to read, write and use numbers – including dealing with money, so this tool will be incredibly important to Nationwide customers who live with aphasia. You can find out more about aphasia or donate to people affected by the condition, by visiting www.stroke.org.uk/what-is-aphasia

[3] The branches where the pilot will run are:

  • Manchester  
  • Stretford  
  • Salford 
  • Sale 
  • Stockport 
  • Ashton-under-Lyne 
  • Oldham 
  • Altrincham  
  • Marple 
  • Rochdale