PARENTS and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are being urged to take advantage of a new pre-payment card.
Prior to April, direct payments for SEND youngsters were transferred directly into dedicated bank accounts nominated by the people responsible for looking after them.
Under this system, parents and carers had to account for every penny of their spending by providing details of each purchase along with supporting bank statements and receipts.
Now funds can be loaded directly onto the new pre-payment cards ready for spending within a few days, significantly reducing the often frustrating and time-consuming admin burden on families.
Direct payments are offered to eligible families following a needs-assessment and can be used to pay for a range of services including short breaks, domiciliary care, special equipment and personal assistants.
Initially the cards have been rolled-out via the county council’s Activities Unlimited (AU) short breaks service.
AU currently has 3,500 member families, nearly half of whom receive direct payments to support short breaks for children and young people.
To date around 350 parents and carers have been issued with the new pre-payment cards, with early feedback indicating they have been well received.
As well as being used to pay directly for services and items, the pre-payment cards can also be used to set up standing orders and direct debits.
An AU spokesperson said the pre-payment cards offered many other advantages to parents and carers of SEND youngsters.
They added: “By using the new cards parents and carers can receive discretionary funds even if they don’t have a bank account.
“It saves them having to carry cash around and enables them to manage their funds remotely online.
“If they use the new card they don’t have to worry about providing us with a paper trail of invoices, receipts and bank statements to justify their spending.
“We can make emergency payments electronically and issuing ‘companion cards’ to trusted nominees.
“The cards can also provide over-16s who have the ability to manage their own finances with a degree of independence.”
One parent who has been using the card since April said: “We were given a prepaid card for my son’s short break award this year. It is so much better than receiving straight cash.
“Being able to have the entire award in one lump sum meant that I was able to arrange an actual short break for me and my child.
“I was also able to book him a flight on a microlight, which was incredible and a massive step for him. His confidence and happiness when he landed was overwhelming.
“We also were able to have a day out in London together visiting a few attractions. He was able to forget about his school worries, his future and his loneliness for a few precious hours.
“It has been far more successful in helping him to cope and manage with his day-to-day struggles than receiving a simple lump sum of cash.”
For more information on how to obtain one of the pre-payment cards visit the Activities Unlimited website www.activities-unlimited.co.uk/
Simply type ‘pre-paid card’ in the search box or follow this direct link HERE