Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) has teamed up with payment specialists allpay to build prepaid functionality into its e+ Citizen card.
The functionality offers residents a more flexible way of managing their money with the same smartcard and also gives them access to other services such as leisure and libraries.
Initially, the Council is focussing on social care payments but the potential to expand into other targeted areas such as children services and indeed general availability is actively being explored.
The council has been an early adopter and leader in the development of smart card technology within local government - having originally been chosen by the government to lead the delivery of the National Smart Card Project. The new card - which combines the functionality of its existing smartcard, used by more than 80,000 people - was launched last month in a limited trial with a further planned roll out to follow. The solution, which is unique within the market place, can also be made available to other local authorities looking to provide similar schemes for their residents.
In addition to being used for services such as retail discounts, leisure and library, the new functionality allows the council to load social care funds onto the card for residents wishing to use this new, secure and convenient way of managing their personal budget payments. Residents wishing to use this service for their personal budget must first fill out a form providing the council with their financial details.
The pre-loaded 'e+' card will be then be able to be used wherever Visa payments are accepted making it easier for people to pay for the goods, services and support they may need to live their lives to the full. As well as the council's financial contribution, users will also be able to transfer their own money from their bank account onto the card. Through allpay's cloud-based web portal, the council is able to have full control and oversight of the funds it provides, including the ability to load and redeem funds and run reports for audit purposes.
SService users are able to manage their account through allpay's secure customer portal, allowing cardholders to view transactions and balance information and set up their own payees online. Supplementary cards can also be issued for companions using the main account bringing much needed clarity about who may have access to these personal budgets.
Vincent Paliczka, Director of Environment, Culture and Communities at BFC, said: "The prepaid card is another option for people in receipt of personal budget payments to pay for the goods and services they need. Not only is it secure and easy to manage, but the fact the card also gives access to popular council services means it is much more convenient than carrying several cards around. Broadening the use of the e+ card in this way means that the technology really does add value to our residents. It's all about choice and we hope the security of the card will encourage more people to take direct control of their personal budgets.
"The prepaid card system is also much simpler for the social care office to manage, so it improves back office efficiency and lowers costs. It also allows the council to provide a Visa card and online facility to the unbanked. allpay's experience within prepaid cards, card manufacturing and local government has allowed us to launch a unique solution that we feel adds value to all parties."
Pierre Galeon, Corporate and Commercial Director of allpay said: "Bracknell should be commended for its determination to consistently use new technology to improve and reduce the costs of services. Having worked with the council since last year on this joint solution, we're delighted to be in a position to see the cards now being issued, allowing the council to offer vulnerable people a more flexible way of managing their money."