The Nationwide Building Society is trialling new branch opening times during the coronavirus outbreak so that elderly and vulnerable people can manage their money in a safe environment with a dedicated hour each morning.
From Wednesday 18 March, more than 100 branches across the UK will open from 8am, instead of the usual 9am, in a trial 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 arrangement, which will be effective from Monday to Friday, will enable groups of people at highest risk from coronavirus to go about their day-to-day transactions with greater confidence and safety during the pandemic.
They will be able to use the facilities first, benefitting 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 a need, Nationwide will consider whether the trial could be extended to more branches across the Society’s 650-network.
Nationwide is also advising members that don’t currently use either the Internet Bank or Mobile App to register, with in-branch tutorials led by employees as well as demonstration videos and help offered via the Society’s contact centres.
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.”
The move follows on from a range of support options outlined by Nationwide last week for members 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.