LONDON, June 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
London's Brent Council faced issues like others across the UK under austerity initiatives. The government announced a collective savings target of £83 billion, including a plan to cut 490,000 public sector jobs. How then, to maintain and grow vital services, including benefit payments to the most vulnerable - those in need of care services.
Brent's Adult Social Services distribute payments to those managing their own care benefits. Qualifying residents including those with learning disabilities, mental health issues, aged care needs and physical disabilities receive funds and pay for their approved services directly. Within their support plan, individuals decide when and how often to schedule hours of care service and manage relations with regular care staff. However, the system required detailed transaction reporting and resulted in vast mountains of paperwork and file storage.
Josephine Wessels, Project Manager at Brent Council reflects, "Our system was cumbersome and required manual processing. Monthly payments by bank transfer and management of paperwork approval was a nightmare. Time and resources were spent processing, when frustratingly, could have been allocated to new individuals in need."
Mr Bennett Amin, 68 and a Brent resident, cares for his daughter Ruth, who suffers with multiple ailments including Pulmonic Stenosis (a condition restricting blood flow in the heart) and Epilepsy. Ruth, 27 has required specialist care from birth and qualifies for financial assistance.
Mr Amin recalls, "The payment system was time consuming and frustrating. It took around 3 hours per month to complete time sheets, write cheques and complete reports." He added, "I had to collect invoices and payslips, fax or post copies of everything to council staff and keep reference files of everything in my house."
Ms. Wessels also sympathised, "if there was ever a discrepancy in payments, asking recipients to recall historical transaction details presented unique difficulties."
Individual payments range from £500-£6,500 per month with handwritten transaction records submitted and processed by under resourced staff. Large payment volumes, partly managed by individuals requiring care, led to triple handling, manual processing and storing paper data.
Brent Council previously moved to Prepaid cards as a payment solution with limited success. So with budget restrictions, a backlog of processing and a growing need to service more care recipients, radical thinking was desperately needed.
Enter Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), with an integrated online real time prepaid payment solution. The system redefined social payments with outstanding results for both Brent Council and the care benefit recipients.
The customised system operates with reloadable Prepaid cards issued to benefit recipients to receive funds. Secure online portals accessed by council staff and cardholders complete the functionality. Monthly payments are batch file processed, in bulk, to individual cards, with funds available in seconds. The cardholder pays for various services direct and can view transaction history online.
The real value to both parties centres on collection of transaction information. Cardholders log onto their own secure portal, complete online forms and upload scans/images of invoices and other notes. Those unable to use the online portal can phone information through to PFS's London call centre. Each drop down payment category can have a corresponding budget code with the existing Brent Oracle Financial suite, further streamlining administration.
Staff time and resources have been dramatically reduced. Brent's four month processing backlog will be cleared by July and staff hope to assist 1,000 new care cases in the near future.
Mr Amin says, "The new card system has reduced my time input from 3 hours to just minutes each month. Most people will be initially resistant to change, but I think it is a better system."
Mr Amin, confesses he has no internet experience at all and utilises the PFS call centre to complete his payment reporting. "I don't complete any paperwork anymore and have no cheques to write. I just phone in the payment details. It makes life easier for all, if people use it properly."
Payment information is stored securely by PFS, in a PCI certified data centre and can be accessed by Council management via numerous reports - real time. For the first time ever, council management can analyse data, providing valuable insight and potential cost savings initiatives.
Brent has extended the PFS prepaid card system to other departments including expenses/purchasing, one off emergency payments for Asylum seekers and seasonal tickets (rail) management for staff.
Elizabeth Jones, Brent's Assistant Director of Finance states, "This system has moved our Direct Payments monitoring firmly into the 21st century. A completely scalable solution designed to reduce costs and improve efficiency."
Noel Moran, CEO of PFS says "The Brent project is another example of how PFS technology can streamline a business process, resulting in multiple benefits that filter down from management through staff to end users. The ability for Brent to restrict spend at card level (real-time), shows the flexibility we provide to our partners."
About Prepaid Financial Services (PFS)
Prepaid Financial Services Ltd. is one of the preferred suppliers of MasterCard Europe, has programmes operating in 10 currencies and is recognised as a specialist supplier to the prepaid industry globally. FSA regulated and currently managing programmes processing millions of transactions every week, PFS products are utilised by governments, blue chip corporations, SME's and individual consumers with cutting edge, secure technology.
More information can be found on http://www.prepaidfinancialservices.com or by phoning +44(0)2071250321.
SOURCE Prepaid Financial Services