Bexhill woman claims bank staff refused to help distressed guide dog

A visually impaired woman says she is “too anxious” to shop in town after staff at her bank allegedly refused to help when her new guide dog became distressed.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 2:29 pm

Dawn Penney, 61, of Southlands Road, went into the Bexhill branch of Barclays with her guide dog, Mr Miller, on May 11.

The pair joined the queue outside the bank, but Mr Miller started to become distressed.

Mr Miller, who joined Dawn in November, had done most of his training during lockdown, so was not used to crowds.

Dawn Penney with her guide dog Mr Miller in Sidley, Bexhill. Also pictured is Louie. SUS-210531-070224001

Dawn said: “Mr Miller was up and down, up and down and panting. He was getting distressed.

“I felt uncomfortable because it was so so busy. I knew I could not take myself off anywhere quiet.

“After 15 minutes I asked another customer if we could go into the bank. I said I did not want to push in, I just needed to get him (Mr Miller) settled.”

But the man refused and Dawn had to wait until another customer offered them to go in ahead.

By this time, Dawn was experiencing palpitations and a shortness of breath. She asked a member of staff for somewhere quiet to sit and calm Mr Miller down.

Dawn said: “By the time I got into the bank I felt so anxious, I just wanted to go home.

“By this time the dog was so very very stressed, I could not get him settled.

“I was sweating. I said ‘can we have some help because I’m really, really struggling’.

“I said I don’t want to push in, but I’m really struggling and we need to get somewhere quiet.

“And she said ‘queue up like everyone else’.”

She added: “There was no empathy shown. The cashier was talking about me to other customers. I felt awful.”

By the time she reached the counter, Dawn was close to tears. Although the cashier did offer an apology, Dawn said there was “no sincerity”.

Dawn added: “I do not even remember coming home. I was so distressed.

“When I got home, I just broke down. It took me hours to get hold of customer services.”

She added: “The bank have been terrible. I’m just so disappointed with them.

“I have been with Barclays 15 or 20 years and I have had to pull them up a couple of times, but this has been awful.”

Dawn was left with recurring anxiety after she was the victim of a vicious attack in 2014. The attacker repeatedly punched Dawn in an unprovoked assault outside her own home in Eastbourne. They were later sentenced to nine months in prison.

Dawn was left so shaken by the ordeal that she left town and moved to Bexhill.

She said: “I had counselling for anxiety. It took many years not to feel anxious and when that happened at the bank, it put me back to square one.”

Dawn said: “I’m not sleeping very well, I have not got any appetite,

“When I think about going out, I just think ‘I can’t’.

“I’m just using my local shop at the moment until it settles down a bit.”

Dawn added: “I do not want to go in the bank again on my own. Ever.”

A spokesperson for Barclays said: “It is disappointing to hear that our customer was unhappy with the support she received when visiting our Bexhill branch.

“We always look to provide accessible services for all our customers and we welcome feedback on what more we can do.”

Thankfully Mr Millar is none the worse after the episode in Barclays and vision loss charity Guide Dogs will be carrying out further training with him.

A spokesperson for Guide Dogs said: “We were sorry to hear that Dawn experienced difficulties on her recent visit.

“It can be difficult to impossible for visually impaired people to follow complex queue systems without assistance.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different and we would certainly encourage customer facing organisations doing all they can to ensure staff are accessible to anyone who needs the help.”