Britain’s biggest building society is trialling new branch opening times during the coronavirus outbreak, to help the elderly and vulnerable manage their money with a dedicated hour each morning.
From March 18, more than 100 Nationwide Building Society branches across the UK will open from 8.00am, instead of the usual 9.00am, to determine whether it is an effective way of providing support to people aged 70 and above and those with underlying health conditions at an uncertain time.
The new opening hours will run from Mondays to Fridays.
The arrangement aims to enable groups of people at highest risk from coronavirus to go about their day-to-day transactions with greater confidence and safety, Nationwide said.
It means older people can be the first people during the day to use Nationwide’s facilities, benefiting from enhanced cleaning that branches will undergo each evening, and before they open to the wider membership from their usual opening times.
If successful and if there is shown to be a need, Nationwide will consider whether the trial could be extended to more branches across the Society’s 650 branch network.
Nationwide is also advising members that do not currently use either the internet bank or mobile app to register. It said there are in-branch tutorials led by employees as well as demonstration videos and help offered via the Society’s contact centres.
Supermarket Iceland has also said it is encouraging store managers to dedicate early opening hours to older and vulnerable people.
A spokeswoman for Iceland said: “With many of our Iceland stores located at the heart of communities across the UK, we are encouraging our store managers to dedicate the first two hours of opening on Wednesday morning to the elderly (those of state pension age) and vulnerable people in their community, such as those with disabilities.
“We are giving them the flexibility to offer this wherever possible, and arrangements will be publicised in the stores that decide to take this action.
“We commend the action taken by our colleagues in the West Belfast store who have already dedicated an hour of early morning opening for the elderly. We are focused on being able to feed the nation and to support the most in need.”
Mandy Beech, Nationwide’s branch network director, said: “Lots of good work is being done across and within communities throughout the length and breadth of the UK and we want to do as much as we can.
“We understand the current situation is likely to hit the elderly and vulnerable the hardest, not only because of the higher risk of catching coronavirus, but also through potentially feeling isolated from the wider world should this issue continue for a longer period.
“That is why we are trialling a specific opening time for our older and most vulnerable members. We know that, in many instances, these are the people who most value and benefit from face-to-face service when they manage their money. In some cases, it may also be one of the only interactions they have each day.
“We also know that many older people rely on public transport. As such we would ask local authorities and Government to consider whether they could temporarily enable use of free bus passes for older people before 9.30am, in addition to relaxing parking rules in local high streets at the start of the day.”
Nationwide, along with many other banks and building societies, has pledged additional support for customer financially impacted by coronavirus. These will be offered on a case-by-case basis and range from payment holidays on mortgages and increased credit and overdraft limits, to the removal of interest charges on credit cards and overdrafts.
Here is are the branches in Nationwide Building Society’s trial:
Aberdeen, Aylesbury, Ayr, Ballymena, Basingstoke, Bath, Bedford, Belfast, Bexleyheath, Birmingham, Boston, Brighton (West Street), Bristol Cabot Circus, Brixton, Bromley, Cambridge, Camden Town, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Chichester, Colchester, Coventry, Crawley, Croydon, Cwmbran, Derby, Dumfries, Dunfermline, Ealing, East Kilbride, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Enfield, Exeter, Fareham, Galashiels, Glasgow, Guildford, Hastings, Hereford, High Wycombe, Hull, Ilford, Inverness, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, London City, Luton, Macclesfield, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Newport (Isle of Wight), Northampton (Weston Favell), Norwich (St Stephen’s Street), Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Poole, Portadown, Portsmouth, Preston, Reading (Broad Street), Romford, Salisbury, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Slough (High Street), Solihull, Southampton, Stafford, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees, Sutton Coldfield, Swansea, Swindon (Regent Street), Tamworth, Taunton, Truro, Tunbridge Wells, Uxbridge, Walthamstow, Warrington, Watford, Wellingborough, Wimbledon, Winchester, Wolverhampton, Wood Green, Worcester, Worthing, Wrexham, and York.