The Kent Card was launched this year to help Kent Council make direct payments more effective and less onerous for clients and social workers.
The card means an end to clients keeping complicated records, and to the support that necessitates on the part of local authorities. It allows a client and their care manager to simply look at a statement online, or monthly in the post, to see exactly where their direct payments have been spent.
The card, which was developed in partnership with the Royal Bank of Scotland and is being piloted by a few people in Kent, has already attracted interest from other local authorities looking to simplify their direct payments processes.
At the moment, it can only be used with agencies that are Visa compliant. However, the council and RBS are working on a way for it to be used to pay personal assistants.
Care manager Amanda Harris says auditing a client’s direct payments normally takes about half an hour, plus the time taken to travel to and from their home. “Now it will take a matter of minutes,” she says. “The auditing can all be done online now. We won’t have to physically go out to someone’s house and go through all the paperwork.
“It will also be helpful in seeing whether the client is using their care. If the money is beginning to build up, that might alert you quickly to the fact that there may be a problem rather than wait to perhaps find after several months that the client has not been receiving a service.”
Another of the card’s benefits is that it can be issued in a person’s own home or in hospital, without a trip to the bank.
Harris predicts that the Kent Card will encourage more people to opt for direct payments – particularly older people – as it has simplified the system for service users. This will enable more people to become more independent and manage their own care, and free up more time for care managers. Harris says: “We can use the time to make sure we are talking about their care needs and really focus on the issues rather than spending time checking accounts.”