Alice Rose, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Money and Mental Health

Two further banks have become Mental Health Accessible

29 September 2021 

Today we announced that two further banks, Halifax and Bank of Scotland have reached the Essentials level, (the first of three levels) in our Mental Health Accessible accreditation programme. This means that these banks have been working with us to make their services more accessible for their customers with mental health problems.

The Mental Health Accessible accreditation is an extremely thorough assessment of a bank’s processes, and just signing up to be scrutinized in this way demonstrates a tremendous commitment to supporting vulnerable customers.

Making things better for customers

Through the Mental Health Accessible programme, we carried out an in-depth evaluation of how accessible Halifax and Bank of Scotland’s services are for customers with mental health problems. Based on our recommendations, they made a number of changes over the last year to improve their services and to better consider the needs of customers with mental health problems.

I wanted to share my top five changes Halifax and Bank of Scotland has made:

  1. Offering staff a specialist tool to help them signpost customers to external organisations who can help them with financial and mental health problems.
  2. Making their communications to customers with debt problems more supportive and less intimidating.
  3. Giving customers more choice and channels through which to engage with their account, including telephone, webchat, email, online and letter. This will help customers who struggle to use some communications channels.
  4. Introducing a “Trusted Person Cards”, through which customers can allow a third party to use the card to withdraw cash and make purchases on their behalf in a secure and transparent way.
  5. Creating account support markers mean that customers should not need to repeatedly disclose their situation

Some of these improvements were highlighted when we surveyed our Research Community members to capture their experiences of banking with Halifax and Bank of Scotland.  One Bank of Scotland customer said:

“I can go into the branch and it’s all down on my notes of my account that I have difficulties with my health, so I don’t have to keep on explaining my health difficulties each time to people”.

A long-term commitment

Of course, we also made recommendations on what more Halifax and Bank of Scotland could do to make their services even better, and we were really pleased to see these being taken onboard and considered by the business. It is clear that Halifax and Bank of Scotland’s commitment to this important agenda does not end with achieving the accreditation mark, and supporting vulnerable customers will continue to be a strong focus for the business going forward.

Working with the banking sector

When I joined Money and Mental Health 18 months ago, I was excited by the challenge of getting essential service providers to do more to support customers, but it felt like a pretty big mountain to climb. So to be able to share the tangible changes these banks have made while working with us is a real highlight for me and demonstrates the impact working in partnership can have.

I’m now looking forward to working with even more banks and other essential service providers in 2022 to continue making improvements in mental health accessibility and to help banks meet the FCA’s Vulnerable Customers Guidance. With more people facing financial worries as the furlough scheme ends, and rates of depression having increased during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that everyone can access the services that we all rely on.

You can find out more about our Mental Health Accessible programme and how your firm can get involved here.