17 Nov 2020

Nationwide launches the sunflower scheme and enhances support for members with hidden disabilities

  • Sunflower Scheme enables members to self-identify where they may need additional support
  • Launch of quiet hours in branches aimed at to helping those who may be sensitive to noise
  • Visual guide of a branch available online to help members with autism prepare for their visit
  • Comes after the Society was the first financial services provider to pilot the lanyard initiative

Nationwide Building Society is launching a range of measures in its branches to support people with hidden disabilities – something that is more important than ever during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the year the Society became the first financial services provider to launch the Hidden Disability Sunflower Scheme when it piloted the initiative in 23 branches. The Society is now rolling the scheme out to its entire network of around 650 branches, making lanyard available for members who want to self-identify they have a hidden disability. Not all members want to or can wear a lanyard, so the Society will also have stickers available that members can put on their passbook or card allowing them to be recognised in other high-street retailers who also support the scheme.

During the pandemic, increasing numbers of members have disclosed their hidden disability, especially those whose conditions mean that they can’t wear a face covering. With permission, an alert can be placed on the members profile highlighting they may need additional support.

In the UK nearly 14 million people live with a disability and 80 per cent of these are hidden disabilities, such as anxiety, autism, chronic pain, mental health issues, learning difficulties and rheumatoid arthritis. To further support these members, the Society will also be taking addition measures, including:

  • Quiet hours: During designated quiet periods there will be reduced background noise while strong scents, such as coffee, will be removed from the banking hall. This is particularly beneficial to members with conditions such as autism or head injuries as they may be more sensitive to smells and sounds.
  • Online visual guide: The guide will provide members with a visual representation of what they can expect to see in a branch environment. This can help those with conditions such as autism or Asperger’s, who can feel more comfortable visiting new places when they know what to expect.
  • Training: Increased training to allow colleagues to identify and support members who may have a hidden disability so that the right level of support can be given.

Mandy Beech, Nationwide Building Society’s Director of Membership Propositions, said: “Many of our members are living with a hidden disability and just by making a few changes we can make our branches a more welcoming place for them. It is often the small things that make the biggest difference and by supporting the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme we are making it easier for members to alert our colleagues about their condition and the additional support they may need. This is more important than ever during the pandemic where some our members may be more anxious about visiting a branch or may be unable to wear a face covering because of their hidden disability.”

Paul White, CEO of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme, said: "We are thrilled that Nationwide Building Society is rolling the Sunflower Scheme out across its branches to support its colleagues and members who have a hidden disability and may need some extra time, patience or support. By supporting the Sunflower and understanding its meaning to the wearer, you will discreetly be able to recognise that a person has a hidden disability and in essence, make the invisible, visible.”