Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers

Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers are exploring the prepaid card options to avoid issuing cash to their clients.

Organisation Profile

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

Around 40. A combination of small hardship payments of £5 or £10 and grants that we apply for that are usually between £50 and £400.

How do you decide who gets payments?

Generally if someone asks for a small payment or displays a need for a larger grant we will apply. We limit the smaller payments to £10 per week. With larger grants, generally the granting organisations ask for a large amount of information which acts as a filter.

How did you make destitution payments before Covid-19?

In cash, in person. 

How do you make payments now?

Still in cash, however we are cleaning the cash before handing over to reduce infection risk. We are in the process of registering for Yordex cards through NACCOM. 

What made you choose this method?

Cash is a necessity currently until we have a prepaid card system set up. We went for the Yordex cards as there is no cost involved and cardholders do not need ID etc.

What challenges have you encountered?

We had been researching extensively into prepaid cards. We had looked into Pockit but they required too much ID etc. from the cardholder. Then we explored Soldo who provide two products - Soldo Care and Soldo Premium. Soldo Care does not let the cardholder get cash out and can only be used at the supermarkets. Soldo Premium has less limits but has a cost - we were eventually offered this free by Soldo but only after we declined to go with them. However, we can’t guarantee that Soldo Premium will remain free so we decided it was best to go with Yordex through NACCOM instead. 

Might you stick with this method going forward?

Yes - having a long term method of payment means we can work more remotely when measures are relaxed but if there are second waves and further measures then we can still provide cards. However, we imagine that some cash payments will still happen. 

Ideally, we would like to find a prepaid card solution that can be a sustainable backup for someone who may experience multiple periods of destitution throughout their asylum journey. For example, if they come to our centre we could provide a card with money on, then if they are dispersed to NASS accommodation in another part of the country, local services could put money on it for them if there are delays with their Azure/Aspen card or when they get their refugee status and there are delays setting up a bank account. 

In the longer term, there are reports that the UK will potentially become cashless by 2026 or beyond - having a card setup like this means that we can ensure the vulnerable people we work with continue to have access to a means of payment. 

What feedback have you got from clients?

We have yet to issue cards however from our initial conversations on them our service users have liked the idea as it is simpler, safer and quicker than cash. Our service users are always extremely grateful for any cash they receive. In some cases the cash we provide is the only form of income they receive.

What practical advice would you give to other organisations?

If distributing cash - use polymer notes, clean them with washing up liquid and water and then place in an envelope ensuring the envelope is only handled by clean hands before handing over. 

As for the cards - explore different options with a view to the needs of your service users. From our experience, ensuring that the cards are accessible to people is paramount as some prepaid card providers require the same information as banks, that lock our service users out of the system. Additionally, cards that do not limit where they can be spent help give agency back to the people we work with.

How do you get funding for Destitution Payments?

We have some internal funding that we use that is usually raised from individual fundraising from our Just Giving. The grant organisations we apply to include: the Catholic Women's League, National Zakat Foundation and COSARAF. Additionally we use the Entitled to grants search tool to find other sources