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Our online tool gives care users freedom and improves the local care marketplace

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The growth of the internet and ecommerce have increased the number of services available for all of us, but sometimes it takes a while for local authorities to adopt this approach. 

  • Project: My Community E-Purse
  • Objectives: Develop an online tool linked to an electronic (PayPal) purse to allow service users to tailor their personal care
  • Timescale: Eight weeks from specification to live system roll out in November 2013, for pilot of 50 service users. Went live for all new service users in September 2014
  • Cost to authority: £160,000
  • Number of staff working on project: 11
  • Outcomes: £4m savings, expanded marketplace with over 900 providers, improved outcomes for service users

Not in Harrow. For more than two years, vulnerable adults have been able to choose what they want, when they want it and how regularly using a new innovative solution. The system, called MyCommunity E-purse, was developed by service users, carers, the council and partner organisations. MyCommunity E-purse is an online marketplace where people can pick and choose the services they want. This can range from care in the home to activities in the community and right through to personal training sessions. 

The My Community e-Purse system uses PayPal to manage the payment for these services. Each resident who is eligible for social care support from the council is allocated a personal budget, which is set depending on their needs. By using this unique system residents are given complete control to choose what services they need. With their support workers, they can browse the wide range of services on offer and through the click of a button they can order it.

As the payment mechanism is backed up by PayPal it is secure and the payments are managed automatically. This reduces the need to generate invoices and pay the relevant supplier of the services. By doing things this way Harrow LBC has saved around £3m since the tool was introduced in 2012. We are using the money saved to fund other vital services, such as specialist dementia care. The system has also had a positive impact on the local economy because a number of small local companies are able to supply services, once vetted by specialist staff.

The simple website uses images to show the money available, making it easy for everyone to use; we have 90-year-olds and adults with severe physical disabilities using it regularly. Since it has been in place we have made continual improvements to the system based on comments from users. 

Harrow LBC has had a lot of interest in this model and it is held up as an example of what can be achieved when focusing on the needs of the customer. Another London borough has recently purchased the MyCommunity E-purse system and will be rolling it out shortly.

Anne Whitehead (Lab), adult and older people portfolio holder, Harrow LBC




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