Features: April 15th, 2019

This feature describes how a Scottish Council has successfully used prepayment cards to make crisis payments from its welfare fund.

Fife Council is third largest Scottish Council, providing hundreds of different services to the residents, businesses and visitors of Fife. In 2015, Fife Council first started working with one of the leading UK payment specialist allpay, to disburse crisis payments for the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund scheme through allpay’s prepaid card solution. The programme provides cardholders with funds to purchase items classed as living expenses, fuel, food, clothing, travel, utility payments and essential and day to day living expenses. In 2018 alone, the Council loaded more than £85k onto prepaid card accounts.

Those eligible for a prepaid card are citizens entitled to ‘Crisis Payments’ as defined by the Scottish Government, with card holders deemed to be in ‘Crisis’ where they have no living expenses until their next income. Often the instant issue card will be loaded due to an emergency and the funds spent within a few hours.

The introduction of prepaid cards allows the council to track and evidence successful and unsuccessful transactions made from the prepaid cards, negating the need for the cardholder to provide physical receipts.

Mary Williamson, customer service lead advisor, Fife Council explains: ‘We had a customer who had a very small baby and had applied to the fund for a pram, she wasn’t entitled to any DWP assistance, as she had previously had received a sure start grant. Due to the size of the baby it required to have a pram that it could lie flat in, however the customer was unable to afford this kind of pram. We were able to give this lady an allpay card to allow her to purchase the pram that she required.”

Rob McCloy, regional sales manager, allpay Ltd explains: “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 the United Kingdom 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 Fife Council’s case, to provide payments for emergency living expenses. The prepaid cards offer a practical and efficient alternative to cheques, cash and vouchers.

Rob McCloy continues: “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 ensuring full financial inclusion. 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.”

Mary Williamson, customer service lead advisor, Fife Council explains: “allpay allows us to get funds to customers in crisis quickly and efficiently. By using allpay, it allows our customers to have control over the money awarded to them. The card looks like a normal debit card and therefore there is no stigma for the customer using it. ”Fife Council required the facility to re-load the cards which was a restriction on the original product. Following the project approval and upgrade, Fife Council staff were able to reload the cards on an ongoing basis to cardholder accounts accessed through an online Organisation Portal.

Mary Williamson, continues: “The move to re-loadable cards was in response to the start of Universal Credit full service where much larger amounts are being awarded to customers for longer periods of time. This function allows us to split payments where necessary to help our customers budget more easily.”

When it came to implementation, the Council met with allpay to scope the project and understand the parameters of the scheme. Staff from allpay also assisted in the completion for the Council’s ‘Programme Overview’ document, which detailed the scheme’s and card usage requirements outlining how the cards can be used for point of sale (POS) and online transactions. The council also has the ability to allow or disallow access to ATMs, which enable the cardholder to make cash withdrawal, make PIN changes and balance enquiries.

Onsite training was provided for staff enabled them to gain knowledge of the use and functionality of the Cardholder and Organisation Portals along with the reporting capabilities of the system. Weekly calls monitored the progress of the overall implementation.

Transaction monitoring is completed by a lead advisor at Scottish Welfare Funds on a regular basis.

For further information please visit: www.allpay.net