Meet the Yorkshire mutual that is making life easier for people with dementia and autism

Janis Hambling, who leads the vulnerable customer support team at Yorkshire Building Society
Janis Hambling, who leads the vulnerable customer support team at Yorkshire Building Society
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A trip to the local building society to check on your finances is all part of the daily routine for many customers.

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But it can be a fraught experience if noise or bright lights make you feel distressed.

Yorkshire Building Society is trialling a weekly ‘quiet hour’ to support customers who have sensory impairments, dementia, learning disabilities, ADHD and autism, or mental health conditions like anxiety. It’s hoped the move will make it easier for them to visit a branch.

Eight branches of the Yorkshire have started to make changes every Wednesday between 4pm to 5pm to support customers who would otherwise find it difficult to visit the society and receive face-to-face guidance.

The branches operate with reduced lighting, limited background noise and without digital screens.

There is also additional private office space and longer appointment times are offered to customers who would find it beneficial.

Janis Hambling (pictured) who leads the vulnerable customer support team at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “We recognise that some of our new or existing customers, may have additional needs that mean they find coming into the branch difficult or impossible, or are not able to do what they want if the environment affects them.

“We introduced these small changes knowing they’d be welcome relief for those who can’t face queues, busy or noisy places or who would benefit from a little bit of extra care and attention.

Ms Hambling added: “Pleasingly, that’s certainly the feedback we’ve been receiving from customers of the branches taking part in the trial so far and we’ll look to roll this out across our network if the scheme is a success.”

Yorkshire Building Society branches in Pickering, Ripon, Scarborough, Chesterfield, Lincoln, Preston, Watford and Peterborough are all taking part in the trial.

A Yorkshire Building Society spokesman said the trial had started earlier in the summer and had proved to be successful so far.

The spokesman said the idea for the quiet hour had come from staff, who wanted to “improve the customer experience”.

She added: “We are leading the way and we are keen to speak to the BSA (The Building Societies Association) to place it on their radar.”

Yorkshire Building Society, which can trace its roots back to 1864, has assets of £43.1 billion and more than three million customers.

Last year, the Yorkshire-based supermarket chain Morrisons revealed that it was introducing a Quieter Hour initiative in all of its stores for customers who would benefit from a calmer shopping trip.

It was designed to help customers who struggle with music and the other noises associated with supermarket shopping.

The Quieter Hour was created with the support of the National Autistic Society.

A Morrisons spokesman said at the time: “Many people who are autistic or those with autistic children can find shopping in a supermarket an anxious experience.

“Listening to customers they found one in five had a friend or family member with autism.”

Bradford-based Morrisons also said it would work to improve awareness among staff of the issues autistic customers face in store.

Daniel Cadey, from the National Autistic Society said: “Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK.

“They see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way.”