The Home Office intends to introduce an ASPEN card (Asylum Support Enablement) to replace the ARC card and enable asylum seekers to access their s95 cash support. The ASPEN card will be a CHIP & PIN card. Asylum support payments will be uploaded onto the card and applicants can then access their support from ATMs or use the card at any retailer that takes debit cards. ASPEN will be piloted in the Midlands in Oct (for new S95 applicants) and then rolled out nationally in 2017 pending a successful pilot Benefits for clients include: increased security (not having to withdraw all the cash at once at the post office) and not having to travel to the post office to obtain cash (they can withdraw cash at any ATM). Benefits for Home Office include: enabling wider dispersal as applicants are not tied to a single post office for collection of asylum support; quicker process for obtaining a replacement card; reducing the number of critical failure points; and being able to monitor card usage data.
Here’s a piece from a Corporate Financial Tech bod talking about the advantages of such a scheme.
Update on the ASPEN pilot 23/11/16
ASPEN (Asylum Support Payment Enablement) via mike at SHSH with thanks to Andy at ASAP:
- ASPEN is the new chip & pin card that will replace the ARC card for Section 95 payments.
- Asylum support is uploaded onto the card and can be withdrawn from any ATM or used in any retail outlets that accept Visa debit cards.
- The pilot started on 4 November and will continue throughout Nov/Dec.
- Instructions are sent (currently translated into 15 languages) on how activate & use the card.
- Language barrier has not been an issue so far as the majority of users have been able to follow the instructions without the need for further support.
- There are 40-45 service users now using ASPEN, with 300 more to follow in the next few weeks.
- There is no carry over limit on the card, but the Home Office will be able to monitor spend and may follow up with individual cases where there is evidence of low spend/excessive carry over.
- The pilot will also cover Hull (end of November) to ensure that the processes work well in a second area.