The service, which is being developed from a successful programme in Southend, will see members of staff from Citizens Advice supporting teams from across NatWest by providing a referral service for customers getting in touch with difficulties. The new and significantly expanded scope of the service will be available to teams across the bank assisting those customers with protection, fraud, bereavement and complaints cases, among others. The advisers will support in instances where the bank believes that Citizens Advice could offer support that addresses a root cause of financial vulnerability.
Where the NatWest colleague identifies a need for additional support because of something the caller says or asks for, the agent can give them the option of being connected directly to the Citizens Advice adviser, or to arrange a call back from them at a convenient time.
Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest, said: "A core part of improving financial capability is the ability to intervene at an early stage when someone is first experiencing difficulty. This new expanded provision will enable us to more quickly and accurately provide tangible support to those who most need it.
“Financial capability and vulnerability are often interconnected in complex ways, so this programme enables us to offer more rounded support – a key aspect of our purpose as a bank.”
The move is the latest in a series by NatWest to recognise and tackle wider relational, environmental and social factors that can contribute making people worse off and underscores the bank’s preparedness to assist customers facing potential difficulty in the coming months. Earlier this year, the bank announced a fund of £1m for SafeLives for the support of victims of economic abuse.
During the initial rollout, issues such as homelessness due to bereavement, access to mental health services and domestic abuse were identified and supported through this process. At least 50% of people referred to Citizens Advice in Southend were new to the service in a demonstration that the programme was successful in helping people to get the support they needed sooner. Bringing together Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland, it is estimated that the new service will be able to address almost 4,000 additional financial support needs every year. In 2020, NatWest announced an ambition to help 2.5 million people improve their financial capability.
Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said, "When someone is experiencing financial trouble, getting early and expert advice can make a real difference. Problems are often complicated, involving lots of different agencies or organisations. Citizens Advice’s experts are trained to help people navigate this difficult landscape.
“That’s why we’re delighted to be working with Natwest to expand this programme. By working so closely together, we’ll be able to reach more people and give them the advice that they need as soon as possible.”
As the service develops, NatWest will work with Citizens Advice to review and evaluate the ways in which customers in vulnerable situations use the new service. Initial findings will be reported at six months, with a full evaluation after twelve months to ensure the best possible support is being provided to people facing financial difficulty.
Find out more about Citizens Advice here.