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.

The below information is provided by West Sussex County Council regarding prepaid card account for Direct Payments in West Sussex.

What is a Prepaid card account?

A Prepaid Card account is similar to a bank account but the money is loaded onto the Prepaid Card 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, online 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 also have the facility to check your balance on-line 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 on the card.

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 2,000 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.
  • Prepaid 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 burden 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.

Is there a phone App for the Prepaid Card?

There is no App but the website is mobile optimised so you can log in via your mobile phone to check balances and make payments as you would using your computer/tablet.

Is the Prepaid Card Contactless?

No. This is likely to be introduced from April 2019 but at the moment the card is set up for Chip and Pin.

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.

Is there an alternative if I don’t want to use online banking?

Yes, if you don’t want to use online banking, Allpay have a local rate customer service telephone line open between 8:00 am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. Outside of these times there is an automated phone service. The phone number for this service is 0330 808 0102.

Is it a premium rate line or high cost to call Allpay in respect of queries or telephone banking

No, the cost from a landline or mobile is 0.03 pence per minute and the average length of call is 2/3 minutes to set up payments so the cost to you is around 10 pence per call. Some mobile phone companies allow free calls to 0330 numbers so the cost of a call may come within your existing phone plan.

Allpay also offer a call back service if there is a problem for you to stay on the line or the call cannot be resolved quickly.

Can I get statements from my Prepaid Card account?

Yes, you can download your statement if you do on-line banking or you can ask allpay for account statements to be sent out to you in the post.

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 Prepaid Card provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are required to meet the regulations applicable to them. As with all payment cards, every precaution needs to be taken to keep the card safe and your PIN secure. Your social care worker can give you further information about this.

Can I have someone help me manage my card?

Yes, if you want a friend or family member to support you to manage your Direct Payment, they can be issued with their own Prepaid Card for your account which they can use to make payments on your behalf. A friend or family member who is issued a Prepaid Card is called a ‘Supplementary card-holder’.

You can have up to three ‘supplementary card holders’. You are in charge of and responsible for your Prepaid Card account, so your supplementary card holder(s) should only use their Prepaid Cards to do things you have asked them to do.

You should discuss this with your social worker as while you can ask others to assist you to manage the card account, as the primary card holder, you ultimately retain responsibility for how the Direct Payment Prepaid Card is managed and used to meet your care and support needs.

Who can access my account information?

You can see all your account information any time by logging into the online customer ‘portal’ with your security code and password. If you have a(ny) supplementary card holder(s), they can also log in through the customer portal. But they will only be able to look at transactions they have made on their card (not your whole account).

The West Sussex County Council Direct Payments team will also be able to look at your account information.

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 or by making a faster payment from your personal account onto the prepaid account, paying your contribution onto the card over the phone or online via your own bank. Please use the payment reference ‘contribution’.

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. If you are topping up the Direct Payment, please use the payment reference ‘Top up’.

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.

You are still required to complete employee timesheets.

What happens if I lose my card or it is stolen?

As soon as you realise your card is lost, stolen or damaged you must ring the customer services phone line: 0330 808 0102. There is an automated phone service outside of office hours for ‘Lost and Stolen’ cards. Your card will be blocked to stop anyone else using it, and you will be sent a new card.

Your account stays open as normal and you can carry on using the online portal and telephone customer support line to make payments. Your supplementary card holder(s) can carry on using their card(s).

What can I do if I’m having problems using my Prepaid Card account?

If you’re having problems using your Prepaid Card account please get in touch with your social work team for some advice and help. The Council may need to carry out a review of your Direct Payment with you to see if there are ways for your care and support to be organised that would work better for you.

When are Prepaid Card being introduced?

From July 11th 2018 Prepaid Card accounts will become the default method for the Council to manage Direct Payments and all new Direct Payments will be set up on the Prepaid Card scheme. Customers who already receive a Direct Payment will be supported to move over to a Prepaid Card in due course.

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 and the Direct Payment is loaded, 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 that all payments and final direct debits or standing orders have cleared in your old account first, as you do not want to incur any charges when you close the account. You will need to send the Direct Payments team a copy of your final bank statement once the account has been closed.

The allpay prepaid card is issued by allpay Ltd pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated. Allpay Ltd is a company regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 900539) for the issuance of electronic money. Head office and registered address: Fortis et Fides, Whitestone Business Park, Whitestone, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR1 3SE (Company No 02933191). Mastercard is a registered trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

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: