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Councils dole out social-care payment smartcards

Making sure the customer doesn't get out of control

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Three councils have begun to issue smart cards for social care recipients to pay for services under the personalised budget agenda.

Merton, Nottinghamshire and Bury councils have done deals with Advanced Payment Solutions (APS) to supply the cards.

Merton introduced the cards at the beginning of July under a three-year contract with APS and had issued more than 30 in the first three weeks of the month. It is planning to make about 500 available to people who receive direct payments from the council, followed by a rollout to all of its 2,200 social care customers.

Helen Cook, head of access and accounts of social work system at Merton, told GGC: "The move derives from the government policy of providing personal budgets for a growing number of social care recipients and Merton's that customers should have more control over the services they receive.

"It's part of a wide move towards making sure the customer is in control, but we can't afford for the customer to lose control of what they are spending."

The council has set up a monitoring system to ensure that the cards are not abused. It has an officer with the responsibility of keeping track of the customers' accounts, and can view their payment information on screen.

Cook said the benefits include supporting people who cannot receive money into a bank account, reducing the administrative burdens and enabling customers to buy services by telephone or on the internet.

APS has partnered with the Co-Operative Bank, which provides the banking facility, access to the Fast Payment Service and a sort code and account number for each card.

The cards also have the MasterCard logo as an acceptance mark.

Rich Wagner, chief executive officer of APS, said the card "reduces the need of the customers to set up a separate bank account to receive the benefit, and then send in statements on a regular basis to the council to validate expenditures".

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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