Streamlined social care for Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh City Council has streamlined social care with the implementation of prepaid cards to supply funds for adult and children’s social care. Here, Government technology looks at a case study of the council’s success

The City of Edinburgh Council required a new prepaid card supplier to distribute funds for social care when their existing supplier withdrew from the market. In 2016, allpay Ltd won the tender to provide a prepaid card solution, allowing the council to continue to disburse adult and children’s social care payments onto prepaid cards. The council worked with allpay on the migration of more than 950 service users accounts, including the transfer of more than £2 million residual balances.

Since launch, the council has loaded £36 million care funding onto prepaid cards for the use of adult social care and children’s services which might be used to pay for personal assistant wages, or recurring payments or direct debits or standing orders where they are assessed as needing to make contributions to their care. As well as disbursing adult and children’s social care payments onto prepaid cards providing real-time monitoring of accounts, the scheme has allowed the council to reclaim surplus balances from the prepaid cards up to the value of £1.5 million, allowing those funds to be redistributed back into its programmes for use by those most in need.

Rob McCloy, regional sales manager, said: “The preloaded Mastercard® can be distributed and used to pay for goods up to the value loaded on the card, offering a bespoke, managed and efficient solution to payment distribution. allpay currently works with around 50 councils across Britain enabling them to distribute the benefits of the prepaid cards for a variety of projects. Councils have used the cards to provide accessible funds for emergency accommodation for example, or to provide the facility to purchase specific products or in Edinburgh City Council’s case, to provide payments for social care services.

“The award-winning prepaid cards ensure goods and services can be purchased at the point of sale, online, or over the telephone offering a prepaid solution for those in need, regardless of their financial situation. Potential users do not have to have a bank account or credit check. All transactions made using the card are recorded and monitored to provide an audit trail and there is no credit or overdraft facility. Councils using the prepaid cards have been able to reduce the cost and administration normally associated with paying out funds.”  

Edinburgh City Council has used the prepaid cards to disburse adult and children’s social care payments, providing real-time monitoring of account and reducing the need for service users to provide receipts and financial monitoring statements back to the council. The prepaid cards enable administration to be streamlined allowing the council to redirect valuable human resources to where they are most needed.The prepaid Mastercard operates in a similar way to a  bank account, with service users able to take advantage of the cards to pay for personal assistant wages directly into their bank accounts or to set up regular payment using recurring payments or direct debits. It also enables standing order payments onto the cards where they are assessed as needing to make contributions to the care.  Users identified as needing further support to manage their account can have a secondary card linked to their account and managed by a family member, carer or other approved person. Cards are dispatched to service users five days after the receipt of the card file from allpay.

Edinburgh City Council now has more than 1,000 active cards issued for adult social care.

Recovery of surplus funds
As part of the services offered, allpay provided on-site training for the council which included operational and monitoring training for all Portal activity and to maximise the use of allpay’s reporting suit. Between 12 and 15 council users are set up on the system at any one time. Spend can now easily be monitored to ensure funds are spent in-line with the service users’ care plans.  

Critically, it enables staff to recover funds from service users where it’s identified that they have more funding than is required to support their care plan. This approach ensures funds are spent appropriately and wastage is minimised. It also means Edinburgh Council have recovered surplus funds of £1.5 million which have been redistributed back into programmes ensuring those in most need get the help they require.

When it came to implementation, allpay worked with the council to roll out the new prepaid cards to ensure a smooth handover for users. Allpay assisted the council in advising that its current supplier needed to issue cardholders with a 60-day card closure notice communication and that a new prepaid card provider had been selected. Cardholders had a dual card period of around three weeks where they received their new allpay prepaid cards ahead of their current card closing. More than £2 million residual balances were transferred across to allpay’s prepaid cards.

Following go-live allpay supplied a week of consultancy onsite for the council aiding it in the integrating of the unique cardholder references within its care software and maximising the reporting suite to assist financial monitoring. The project was implemented on-time with ‘Ease of Use’, ‘Product Documentation’ and ‘Overall Satisfaction’ rated ‘Very Good’ by council’s staff. Feedback among service users utilising the Cardholder Portal has also been positive.

Elizabeth Davern, business development manager at Edinburgh City Council, said: “There was good communication between ourselves and allpay and they were very responsive as the project progressed, as we had a deadline with our current supplier. They also alerted us to the need for cardholders to be issued with a 60-day card closure notice from the existing supplier. Our contact with allpay’s product manager has been very helpful in sorting our any issues with cardholders – and allpay delivered the service in time for our go-live.  

“Cardholders using the Cardholder Portal are pleased. Vulnerable clients who need to use the automated phone service had frustrations getting through and allpay were helpful in providing a direct line into its team of call centre operatives to aid cardholder queries to set up payees, make payments and activate cards. From an admiration point of view the allpay system is a lot more streamlined allowing us to load and recoup funds to and from the card in real-time whereas previously requests had to be sent to our card provider to carry out these actions.”

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