Councils across the country, including West Sussex, are introducing the option of a pre-paid card for people receiving a Direct Payment.

West Sussex County Council are introducing pre-paid cards for people receiving a Direct Payment. You may have received a letter from West Sussex County Council about this. If you have any questions you can contact West Sussex County Council directly, using the contact details provided on the letter.

What is a pre-paid card?

Prepaid card account for Direct payments in West Sussex (information provided by West Sussex County Council)

A prepaid card account is just like a current account from your bank and  works in the same way as any other bankcard except that money is loaded by West Sussex County Council (WSCC).

The card will have your name printed on the front and the MasterCard Acceptance Mark which means that it can  be used anywhere this symbol is displayed. If you wish to buy a product or service you can use the card in person, over the internet or by using the telephone. You can also use the card to make online or phone payments directly to a UK bank account, such as making payments to your Personal Assistant. You can check your balance online or over the phone.

You will only be able to make purchases with the card when there are sufficient funds on your prepaid card and  you will not be able to spend more than this amount. There is no overdraft facility.

Your card must be used to pay for services that meet your  assessed needs and outcomes, as agreed in your support plan.

How does the prepaid card account work?

A prepaid card is an alternative way of receiving your direct payment. Instead of having  to  open  or  maintain  a  separate bank account, you will be allocated a prepaid card account from which you will pay for your services  either by telephone, online bank transfer or through direct debits and standing orders.

The responsibility of managing and arranging the direct payment remains with the customer or their representative. There will be no change to the way WSCC loads your direct payment funds. This will continue to be paid every 4 weeks in advance as it is now.

Why is WSCC changing the way it delivers direct payments?

WSCC has more than 2000 direct payment customers and at a time when more people are using online accounts or telephone banking, moving to a prepaid card has a number of benefits for WSCC and to the customer:

  • Direct payments  monitoring  is  much  easier  and  more  effective  via  an online  portal,  from  a  safeguarding  point  of  view  as  well  as  risk management.
  • Prepayment cards are generally available to everyone as there is no credit element  attached  to  them. Although  WSCC will still  need  to  satisfy  itself that the customer or their representative can manage a direct payment.
  • An end to delays in getting direct payment monies because of the time it can take to set up a bank  account.  Prepaid  cards can be with the customer within eight days of the direct payment account being agreed and set up. 
  • Customers can  monitor  and  manage  their  funds  through  an  online  portal or,  if  they  are  independently  unable  to  do  this,  via  a  telephone  banking facility  provided  by  the  card  supplier.  Where  needed,  carers  or  financial representatives  can have  companion cards to support management of the direct payment.
  • The administrative task for customers to send through their monthly bank statement and for WSCC to check them will end as direct payments can be managed and monitored via the online portal.

Does the card have a credit limit?

No, it is not a credit card and carries no credit  limit. You  cannot  spend  more money than is held on the card account.

Are there any fees for using my card?

There are no additional transaction charges if you use the prepaid card attached to the account to make payments. You may be charged for a replacement card if you lose the card you are issued with.

How does a prepaid account work online?

You will have  access to your online account 24/7 by logging into the card provider’s website using your unique password and security code.

You can view all spending activity online and all this information is retained and available to print.

Can I withdraw cash?

This facility is not generally available on a direct payment prepaid card account unless this has been agreed and set out in your support plan.

Is the card safe and secure to use?

The card provider and banking system are as safe and secure as any other high street  bank.  As  with  all  credit  and  debit  cards,  every  precaution  needs  to  be taken to keep the card safe and your PIN secure. The card is not linked to your bank account greatly reducing the risk of fraud when you pay online.

Can I arrange for someone to manage the card for me?

Yes, if you want to or if you need support to manage a direct payment, the card can be issued to the financial representative or nominated person instead of you.

How do I pay my assessed client contribution onto the account?

If you have been financially assessed to make a  contribution towards your care and  support  costs,  you  must  transfer  your  own  money  into  your  prepaid  card account. You  can  do  this  by  setting  up  a  standing  order/direct  debit  from  your  personal account onto the prepaid account, paying your contribution onto the card at the Post Office over the phone, online, or via your own bank. You may also transfer more of your own money into your prepaid card account if you want to spend more money on your care and support than the Council has allocated to you in your Personal Budget

Do I still need to keep records?

Your direct payment  will still be monitored by WSCC, and you must account for all expenditure paid from your account as required on the current system. If  you  are  requested  to  do  so  you  can  either  send  your  copies  of  invoices  or receipts to the Direct Payments Team to evidence your payment, or alternatively if you have the facility to do so, upload copies of the payments directly onto  care provider website. You are still required to complete employee timesheets.

When are prepaid card being introduced in West Sussex?

Prepaid card accounts will become the default method for the Council to manage direct  payments  but  if  this  creates  additional  significant  barriers  for  some customers, alternatives will be considered.

The prepaid card accounts will be introduced in two phases:

  • July – September 2018 –try out the planned prepaid card approach with a number of new and existing customers who would be happy to be ‘early adopters’ to help inform the Council’s approach to wider implementation.
  • From 1st  October  2018,  all  new  customers  will  be  offered  the  prepaid card  and  we  are  aiming  to  have  all  existing  customers  transferred  onto the new system by the end of March 2019.

WSCC will work with customers on a case by case basis if they encounter any barriers that will prevent them from using a prepaid card.

What happens when I agree to a Prepaid Card?

You  will  need  to  sign  a  new  Direct  Payments  Agreement  either  as  the  primary customer  or  their  representative.  Your  social  worker/direct  payments  team  will take all the required  details to register you with the card provider  and authorise the  issue  of  your  card.  The  card  provider  will  send  a  card  directly  to  you  or  to your representative’s home address ready for activation.

Once  the  card  is  activated  you  will  be  able  to  use  your  card  to  pay  for  your services.

How do  I  transfer  from  a  traditional  Direct  payment  to  a  Prepaid Card account?

Once  you  have  activated  your  new  card  account,  you  can  transfer  the  balance from your existing Direct payments account to your new account. You  must  ensure  all  your  paperwork  is  sent  to  the  Direct  payments  Team  to enable the closing of the Direct payments bank account.

You must ensure that all payments have cleared in your old account first, as you do not want to incur any charges when you close the account.

The below guidance and further information is written by Independent Lives

I have been given a prepaid card but I want to manage my personal budget in a different way.

This guide relates to adult services and is for guidance only. If you need legal advice, please contact a legal service such as the Disability Law Service.

A prepaid card is not the only option available to you - contact your social worker to explore options available. One option may be receiving a Direct Payment.

Direct Payments and other budgeting options are available so that you have more control of how your social care budget is managed. If you are currently have a prepaid card, it is still possible to change how your personal budget is paid to you.

Would a prepaid card benefit me?

Prepaid cards are a good option for some people, for example if you have a poor credit rating or are unable to open a bank account. Another benefit of using a prepaid card is that it will record your transactions meaning you may not need to send off receipts for your purchases to the Local Authority.

Please note: in some areas across the country, charges are applied when you use the card as a method of payment and the cost of the charges are applied to your personal budget. Talk to your local authority to find out what's happening in your area.

I need help with understanding the options available to me

If you have difficulty in understanding, retaining information, weighing up the information or communicating your wishes you may choose to work with an advocate. Finding an advocacy service: