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Card Games

December 4, 2014

We were notified about a month ago that Hillingdon are changing the company they outsource to that manages their personal budget pre paid card services. The change takes effect from 15th December. In the publicity they sent about the change, they claimed that the new card is much more user friendly.

Those readers with long memories may remember that the problem I have had with the existing card system is that it takes 5 working days to move money from the card into an account. They use a very antiquated BACS system. And there is always a problem at the start of each payment month because the personal budget funds get credited to the card late on a Friday. So, even if I transfer money from the card on that day, it will be the following Friday before the workers get their pay in their account. The problem is compounded as Friday is always a very busy day for me and I prefer to do the wages on either a Wednesday or Thursday. That works fine for three weeks out of every four but not for the week when the funds get credited.

So, the new card is going to be much more efficient we are told. As everything hinges on the timescale for moving money from the card, I thought I’d check with the council. I spoke to the support planner and she admitted that she didn’t know how long it would take to do a transfer but had been assured that, as part of the new contract tender, it would be quicker than the old company. That seemed a little vague to me, so I checked with the local voluntary disabled organisation who the council funds to support their personal budget scheme (Yes – I know!). They also didn’t know for sure but had been told at meetings that the new system is much quicker than the old one.

We’re a week away from going live with the new card. I’m worried that when I come to do the wages on 17th December (for w/e 14th December), I won’t be able to get the funds in time to pay the workers that week. As it’s the week before Christmas, I’m pretty sure that they won’t be too chuffed to be told their wages will be late. Yesterday, I tried to contact the new pre paid card company. Dauntingly, there is no phone number to contact them on. So, I sent them an email instead. This afternoon I got a response – “It takes between 3 to 5 working days to make a payment from the account”.

Exactly the same. Not more efficient for the card user. No benefits at all for the user of the card or the recipients of the money on the card. This must mean that the only gainers are the council. Somewhere along the line, they must be saving some money by using a new card company.

For once, it would be nice if they owned that and not pedal another lie that the change has been done for the benefit and best interests of the service user. It’s just another example of the harsh reality that the service user doesn’t even come into the equation when it comes to service delivery.


From → Social Care

  1. Cathy H. permalink

    I understand trying to save tax money.
    BUT why do this just before CHRISTMAS.
    Doesn’t seem very fair to anyone.
    Maybe the folks who made this decision should get paid a week late too.
    Seems only right…..

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Mark it is the peddling of lies that angers me. So many half truths, so many lies, so much distrust. Do the powers that be know how much distress it causes vulnerable families?

  2. Sally permalink

    If it takes the same time to transfer the money, can anybody at Hilingdon say what exactly is more “user friendly?”. Is the card easier to hold? In nice bright colours so can’t be lost? You can bet that switching the systems cost money, so what are the advantages?

  3. Tallguy permalink

    I don’t wish to be seen as playing devils advocate here, but having dealt with procurement teams in Local Government I suspect that it is possible the social workers believed they were telling the truth.

    It starts with someone setting out that they need to procure a new service, so they speak to the procurement department. They explain that they want a balance between cost and customer service, and they are told that the cost of the procurement is such that the law requires an open tender. All well and good so far.

    Procurement then set up the Tender questions which will be presented to the applicants in accordance with the specification provided by the front line department. They will say to the lead in the front line department that because they want such a focus on quality they will weight the tender 60% on quality, 40% on price.

    Poor foolish front line officer thinks-that sounds good, that way we will only get good quality tenders as a result and it will all be lovely. They rush off and excitedly tell their manager that they think they can really get good quality in the new system, and that filters down the ranks.

    The Tenders end and the evaluation starts. This could be as little as a month before the contract starts as once the winner is announced, then contract can be signed after ten days of “standstill”

    What the poor officer in the frontline department hasn’t understood because they trusted the procurement team is that 40% on price on quality now means that a very low bid can still win even with crud quality, as you can vary more on price than quality provided you meet the minimum requirements. So with 10 days to go until a new contract is signed, staff still believe they are looking at an improved service coming in.

    And then the Tender result is announced, and to the shock of all it is a rubbish company that one purely on price, even if this was not what the lead in the Social Service department wanted. And then they are trapped. They can refuse to award the contract, but if they spend over £50 000 in 4 months (realistic minimum procurement time), the law will screw them as they can’t procure cover of that value through a closed process. So they are told they have to accept the poor service.

    This really sums up a lot of problems with Local Government-the central support teams don’t listen to the front line staff over what is actually needed, and they then procure crap which can hardly be worked with.

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