How RA are Making Destitution Payments

Refugee Action are using a mixture of bank transfers, supermarket vouchers and are exploring PayPoint vouchers.

Organisation Profile

How many people do you give destitution payments to each month?

Since the lockdown we have issued around 200 destitution payments and provided data top up for 25 clients. 

How do you decide who gets payments?

We have a criteria that our staff follow in determining who is eligible for a payment and how much they can receive. 

How did you make destitution payments before Covid-19?

We gave people cash, in person from petty cash at each of our offices. We tend to make urgent, one-off or short-term payments, while people are waiting for asylum support or are experiencing a short period of destitution or hardship.

How do you make payments now?

We have set up a new system using a couple of different methods. Clients can receive an E-voucher (mobile or email) or a physical voucher in the post, for their preferred supermarket. We order multiple vouchers for various supermarkets through the Gift Card Centre. We began ordering individual e-vouchers each time a request was made, this was time consuming and made it difficult to track orders. Now we have a charity access account with the Gift Card Centre that means we can log-in, order multiple e-vouchers for different supermarkets at the same time and keep a record of all vouchers.

If the client has a bank account or a trusted friend/family member has one, we can make a bank transfer. We are also topping up people’s phone credit/data remotely. 

What made you choose this method?

Following the lockdown we were physically unable to issue cash payments to people, and had to find an alternative system. We did some research into our user’s needs, circumstances and preferences. We want to move beyond supermarket vouchers, to give people more choice and flexibility. Now we are in the process of exploring set up with PayPoint. The PayPoint system seems to fit our needs for making very fast, remote payments that enables all our clients to access cash. 

What challenges have you encountered?

The physical vouchers can take a long time to arrive in the post. 

Some clients have difficulty activating the E-vouchers and need additional support. 

We have some concerns around people using other people's bank accounts to receive payments and the potential risk of financial exploitation.

The new system for issuing payments has required additional capacity from admin and finance staff. 

We didn’t have consistent data for all previous payments made so we have redesigned our monitoring and recording system.  

Might you stick with this method going forward?

We can see the huge benefit of having an alternative way of getting payments to people, across any geographical area, without them having to collect cash in person. We want to find a long term, effective and sustainable solution. 

What feedback have you got from clients?

Overall, the system is working well and the clients receiving payments are grateful for the support provided. However, they would prefer a system that enables them to access cash and use local shops where they can buy culturally specific food. 

What practical advice would you give to other organisations?

Start with thinking about your client’s needs - do they require regular ongoing payments or one-off urgent payments? What is your organisational context - do you need to make significant numbers or payments per month or just a few? Choose a solution that is most appropriate to your organisation and client needs.