Call for evidence: Pre-paid cards for social care
Pre-paid cards (or payment cards) are increasingly being used by local councils as a way of making direct payments for social care. Instead of funds being paid into a Disabled person’s people’s bank accounts, funding is ‘loaded’ or paid into a card account. This means that councils can monitor in detail all transactions as they happen, and potentially may suspend an account, if they do not approve of how Disabled people are using the cards.
Across the country, Disabled people have been told by councils that they ‘have to’ use a prepaid card, even if they have been managing their own funding for many years (2). We also know of a case in the South West where someone was threatened to a cut to their social care funding, unless they accepted a pre-paid card.
As payments usually have to be made online, or over the phone, using a card may also be inaccessible for some Disabled people.
This system has been promoted to local authorities by National Prepaid Cards Network (1) as a way of ‘clawing-back’ money and controlling the way Disabled people use direct payments. Advice to councils has included; ‘The prepaid card remains the use of the council which allows a wider range of sanctions to be applied tactically where required’
In 2017 the Independent Living Strategy Group (3) conducted research that showed:
- Over a million pounds a year is spent on fees and operating the cards.
- Just two card companies were providing services to most local councils using payment cards.
- The way that councils use pre-paid cards varies widely across the country, with some using cards as way of restricting the way that direct payments can be used.
The ILSG also found that some councils are imposing pre-paid cards on Disabled people, contrary to the governments own guidance:
‘Whilst the use of such cards can be a useful step from managed services to direct payments, they should not be provided as the only option to take a direct payment The offer of a ‘traditional’ direct payment paid into a bank account should always be available if this is what the person requests and this is appropriate to meet needs.’ 4
(Or, as a Disabled activist pointed out recently; ‘If you are offered a pre-paid card for direct payments, you have a choice. You don’t have to have it!’)
However, despite this research and recommendations made by the ILSG to councils, there still seems to be widespread concern about pressure on Disabled people to accept a card and misinformation about their use.
If you have been offered a pre-paid card as the only ‘choice’, or been pressured to accept a card by your council, the Independent Living Strategy Group would like to hear from you.
- Please note that they cannot, unfortunately, offer any support in any difficulty that you have with your Council but they will be raising concerns about prepaid cards with the Association of Directors of Social Services at a meeting in September. Any information you provide will not be used in any way which could identify you.
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(Article by Bristol and South West Disabled People Against Cuts)