Making it easier to manage direct payments

This blog was contributed by Barbara Limon, Policy Programme Manager – Consumer and Community. 

Increasingly older people who are in receipt of funded social care are choosing to take this funding as direct payments, meaning they control the funds themselves.  Whilst there are advantages of being in control in this way we’ve found that the process of managing the cash could be made easier for older people.

direct paymentsIn our report ‘Direct payments for social care – options for managing the cash we look at what some the issues are and have identified potential solutions.  The report covers both the ‘traditional’ method of managing direct payments, via bank accounts, and at newer methods using prepaid cards.

Most of the problems we found are not new – they are simply the day to day difficulties which many older people experience in managing their money and paying for things.  Solving the problems highlighted in the report would also solve many of the on-going difficulties older people have in relation to financial services. For example, Chip and PIN card technology has generally been considered a success, but the need to remember and type in a PIN can act as a barrier to independent use of payments.

There is some excellent practice and potential solutions available targeted specifically at direct payments recipients – but these are not available everywhere.  Some local authorities have commissioned pre-paid cards which can offer significant benefits, while others have developed innovative relationships with local credit unions.  Payment systems providers have also developed solutions which could help older people, for example, second cards and emergency cash codes.

Solutions often rely on internet access – but many older people have either never used or do not have easy access to the internet. Support designed specifically to help older people get the best out of the internet may be available locally which could make it easier for users to manage direct payments.  But for this to work widely, the design of online banking systems needs to be improved, for example security systems and procedures which are accessible to older consumers.

It is important that the benefits of direct payments are not undermined by obstacles in managing the money.  Payment systems need to be inclusively designed and work for older people, not against them and we think that the increased demand for direct payment accounts could help drive solutions for all older people, not just those in receipt of direct payments.

Age UK aims to be a centre of expertise on ageing issues and a knowledge hub for all information relating to older people. Find out more about Age UK’s Knowledge Hub

Read ‘Direct payments for social care – options for managing the cash

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