Managing welfare payment services for central and local governments

Home Office, Close up of the hands of people in a meeting circle

Working with the Home Office

Sodexo have provided payment services to Asylum Seekers on behalf of the Home Office since 2000.

Originally a paper voucher solution, we introduced our first prepaid card, the Azure Card, in 2008. This was in response to a request from the Authority to provide a specific mechanism for the provision of support to Service Users under Section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration Act.

In 2015, the Authority requested that we develop a card solution for all Asylum Seekers in the UK. After a period of collaborative development, Sodexo were pleased to launch the Aspen Card in November 2016.

The Aspen service was fully rolled out to the entire Asylum Seeker population over a six-month period. By May 2017, it had superseded all other means of centralised payment.

Aspen is a prepaid Visa debit card that can be configured using a series of profiles to enable the Home Office to decide on the allowed functionality. For example, whether cards are ATM enabled or not, and if so to set the limit of funds that can be withdrawn.

This system allows Service Users to retain the same card throughout the lifecycle of their Asylum claim regardless of any change in the financial conditions of that claim. Aspen is also enabled with wallet capabilities. This allows the Home Office to ring-fence certain funds for specific purposes; for example, to be used only to pay for transport services.

Sodexo also provides additional services to the Authority to support them in their control and use of the Aspen service.

A secure Management Portal (‘SAM’) is made accessible to authorised Home Office users, allowing them to both order and issue cards as well as provide up to date balance and transactional data on a card by card basis.

Sodexo and the Home Office share secure and direct interfaces allowing for real time card and balance management. In addition, Sodexo also provides an Aspen-specific Helpdesk to answer cardholder queries and deal with complaints or suspected incidents of fraud.

Home Office, Home People hugging, crowded street scene, workplace

Further developments

The Aspen Card provides financial normalcy to a vulnerable section of society, allowing them to transact and manage their financial affairs with a mainstream but nuanced solution.

The Aspen Card has also provided The Home Office with an opportunity to streamline its internal processes, and to ensure that public funds are distributed in a controlled and fully auditable manner.

Aspen is fully compliant with all financial regulations and has built in a range of fraud prevention measures that meet and exceed industry standards.

The development of Aspen is, we believe, a textbook example of a collaborative and insightful client/supplier relationship. The Sodexo approach is to fully understand the needs of the client, in this case The Home Office, and to provide a solution that mirrors those needs, whilst recognising that a solution must always provide value for money.

This innovation is indicative of the way in which Sodexo have enhanced our contract with the Home Office over its lifetime. Moving from paper vouchers, through a manual cash distribution service, to the full migration to Aspen, we have never stood still. Always embracing new technologies whilst retaining our belief that individuals are at the very heart of what we do.

Our approach is supported by a proven process of Contract and Account Management. Skilled and experienced individuals from a range of disciplines work where required in partnership with colleagues from The Home Office, always ensuring that the needs of the client and of the Service Users are at the forefront of the service we provide.

In addition, we demand and obtain the highest quality from our supply chain, ensuring that all stakeholders engaged in providing the service share our commitment to exceeding our client’s expectations, and share our corporate and social values.

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