Aberdeen City Council: working smarter for its citizens and tenants
Since 2004, the Open Solutions’ EPoS system has been enabling Aberdeen City Council’s tenants, elderly residents and their carers to use their Accord cards for emergencies, and for every day needs such as 400,000 laundry payments and lunch.
Working closely together, the two organisations have ensured that the benefits of an EPoS system that is fully integrated with the city council’s Accord card have transformed customer service, making life easier for all concerned.
Scottish Welfare Fund Payments
The Accord Card team is working in partnership with the Food Strategy Partnership Group, the lead partner of which is the Community Food Initiatives North East. Their aim is to co-ordinate the city’s food banks.
In April 2013 Aberdeen City Council took over responsibility for the provisions made available by the Scottish Welfare Fund, a scheme offering grants for food vouchers, furniture to help citizens with expenses after an emergency or disaster to avoid serious damage or threat to health and safety.
This process saw the Scottish Welfare Fund grant electronically loaded to the smartcards e-purse which can be read and redeemed at the foodbank for food and toiletries rather than supermarket vouchers such as Tesco’s, thus helping ensure the grant is spent on its intended purpose via a local smartcard and EPoS system. This puts crisis grants given to citizens under the Scottish Welfare Fund securely onto the smartcard at the Aberdeen City Council’s corporate headquarters, and the card is then taken to one of the food banks to ‘purchase’ food.
Laundry payments by council tenants
Laundry payments are handled in the same way by tenants at Council sheltered and multi-storey accommodation. Again, the numbers make the point: used by approximately 4,500 council tenants, over 400,000 uses of the card are made each year for laundry payments.
My Choice: making lunch - and life! - easier for Very Sheltered Housing residents
Aberdeen City Council provides Very Sheltered Accommodation sites for those citizens that need some additional assistance and services to enable them to live a full and independent life.
One of those services is of course the provision and administration of meals, and to help make things much easier for both the residents and where appropriate their relatives who pay for the meals, from June 2015 onwards the Accord team installed the Accord card and CHIPS EPoS system into these complexes.
Branded ‘MyChoice’, it replaces the current weekly meal ordering paper sheets that the residents have to complete with an electronic version of the sheet displayed on a 32” touchscreen monitor.
To place their weekly meal order, the resident will first swipe their Accord Card on the smartcard reader attached to the touchscreen monitor which tells MyChoice who is ordering. The weekly menu is then displayed on the monitor (in both pictures and words) and the resident touches the screen to make their choice.
Once ordering is complete the resident can then, if they wish, make immediate payment on-line at the touchscreen monitor as there will be a link via MyChoice to the corporate payment engine. When they make payment, the Accord Card number is the unique identifier that the tenant will use to identify themselves to ensure payment is credited to their meals ‘account’.
Also, for residents who would prefer to order in their own room/ flat within the complex, tablet devices will be available with the same functionality of the touchscreen monitor. This development will bring about benefits in the following areas:
- A fairer and consistent meal charging policy for all residents
- Payment for meals made online
- Residents (and their relatives/ representatives) pay for their meals at a time and frequency of their choosing
- Significant reduction in administration and payment collection thereby realising time releasing savings
- Reduced food waste
- Significant improvement in the reporting of management information and through this process greater clarity and transparency for any re-charge between ACC and Bon Accord Care
Furthermore, as part of this development relatives and representatives can manage the tenants (e.g. their elderly mother or father) meals ‘account’ remotely. This will be achieved by the relative/ representative receiving a monthly message via email or text advising of the amount to be paid for the meals provided with a link to the corporate payment engine. Once there, the relative/representative lands on the payment page, and they simply enter their mother/fathers Accord Card number to ensure payment is credited to their meal ‘account’.
See all this for yourself
To see how much simpler all this feature-rich technology is making the lives of Aberdeen’s elderly residents when it comes to getting something to eat, and for their relatives to pay for it, the Accord team has created a video, and viewing is strongly recommended!
Summary: making technology work for council tenants and the elderly in care
What these projects using smartcards and the CHIPS EPoS systems show and prove beyond any doubt is how technology really does improve matters in all sorts of ways for public authorities and their citizens.
In using this technology Aberdeen City Council is able to both deliver and demonstrate best value for the public pound. Its Accord Card team is a shining example to every other large and small authority in the UK when it comes to making technology work harder for the benefit of council tenants and those who require a little more help.