Direct payments card account

A direct payment card is a convenient, secure way of receiving and spending your direct payment.

This page explains how the direct payments card account works.

Direct payments are cash payments from your personal budget, made directly to you (or your parent if you are under 18), to meet your assessed eligible care and support needs. If you are (or care for) an adult over the age of 18, you can read about personal budgets and direct payments in this article.

See our article for information on personal budgets for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Page contents:

The direct payments card account and how it works

If you receive a regular direct payment rather than a one-off payment, the council will provide you with a direct payments card account.  The direct payments card account is the council’s preferred way of paying direct payments. It provides a convenient, secure way of receiving and spending your money. The council support you to help you use the account and ensure it works for you.

We recognise however that sometimes you might need an alternative way of receiving direct payments.  We work with you and if appropriate your carer to find the best solution depending on your circumstances.

The direct payment card account is similar to a bank account with a debit card. The direct payment card looks like a debit or credit card. The card is loaded with the direct payment you receive from the council, you can then use the card to pay for services and items to meet your outcomes and assessed eligible needs in your support plan or child’s Education Health and Care Plan.

With the card you can:

  • make payments over the telephone and/or online
  • make bank transfer payments and set up standing orders
  • make payments in person by card using chip and PIN
  • set up Direct Debits to come out of the account

If you are aged 18 or over, payments will be made to the direct payment card every two weeks, three weeks in advance. The calendar which shows what date the money is paid into your account can be found under documents.

For parents of disabled children, payments are usually made monthly in advance.

The direct payment card account is provided by a company called EML who also trade as Prepaid Financial Services (PFSL). 

Once your account has been set up EML will send your card to you in the post. It can take up to 14 days for the card to arrive and will include a letter with information on how to activate the card. You must activate the card before you can use it.

Making payments using your direct payments card account

Cash is not usually needed to pay for support, however the council will discuss this with you when your direct payment is set up and activate the cash facility if needed. There are no fees for making purchases or using the card online, at a shop, over the phone or by bank transfer.

If you employ a personal assistant (PA), you will be able to pay their wages directly into
their personal bank account, either online or over the telephone. See Employing a personal assistant for more information about employing a PA.

If you use a homecare agency for your care and support, you will need to ask them for
their bank account details. You can then set up payments directly, either
online or over the telephone. You should always check that invoices are correct.

Most providers or personal assistants should be able to share their account details
with you and payments should not be a problem. Once you have paid someone the first time, their details will be saved to the system ready for when you next pay them.

You can make payments over the telephone by calling the EML (Prepaid Financial Services) customer service number below. When you call, you will be asked to provide some information to confirm your identity. This is necessary to protect the security of your card. Your calls may be recorded for staff training purposes.

When making payments over the telephone or online, you may be asked for the
security code on your card. This is the last three digits printed on the signature strip
on the back of the card and is sometimes referred to as the CV2 code.

You can check your direct payments card balance in a number of ways:

There is more information about using your direct payments card in the document ‘Direct payments card account online guide

Getting help and support with your direct payments card account

The council’s direct payments monitoring team are able to view your account
and monitor your spend online. This is to ensure you or your child are getting the support you need as agreed in your care and support plan or your child’s Education, Health and Care plan.

You should keep invoices and receipts for all direct payment spending from providers and all records about your Personal Assistants. This is so that you can provide evidence if requested. This includes spending if you have access to cash withdrawals.

EML (Prepaid Financial Services) are also able to view and administer your direct payment card account. If you have a ‘managed account’ with a direct payment support provider, they will also be able to view your account and make transactions on your behalf.  Some direct payment support providers may use a different system for managed accounts.

You can choose a ‘nominated person’ when you set up your direct payment card account.  This is someone you trust who agrees to act on your behalf, who spends the money on the support you need as set out in your care and support plan.  If you have a nominated person, the money is paid to a direct payment card account, and both you and your nominated person will be able to use that account.

If you wish to add a nominated person after your account has been set up, you should contact the council’s customer services team (numbers below). The nominated person will need to sign a copy of the direct payments agreement that you signed when your direct payment started.

Below is a summary of contacts for the different organisations involved in supporting you with your direct payment.


Contact details

EML(Prepaid Financial Services)

Customer Services: For account
queries, and for making transactions
using the telephone


Automated telephone system
numbers: for activating your card account, reporting
a lost/stolen card, checking balance or
retrieving your PIN




 Telephone: 020 3633 1097



 020 3327 1991
 020 3468 4112
 020 7183 2248


South Gloucestershire Council Direct Payments Monitoring Team

For general queries about your direct
payment and spending, or concerns
about funds in your card account. This is a message line that is monitored regularly by the team.


 Telephone: 01454 865949


South Gloucestershire Council Financial Assessment Team

For queries about your assessed
personal contribution



 Telephone: 01454 864269


South Gloucestershire Council Customer Services

To speak to the social care team
about your ongoing care and support


 Adult Care: 01454 868007

 Children/Young People’s Care: 01454

Direct Payments Support Provider

These organisations are separate to the council and help you with running your
direct payments and provide employment advice. If you are not sure who your
provider is or don’t have their number, you can check the direct payments section on
the council’s website or contact the direct payments monitoring team (number above)

 Direct payment support providers


Paying your contribution towards your care and support

If you have been told that you need to make a contribution to the cost of your support, you should transfer this amount directly into your direct payment card account from your personal account. The council prefers that you set up a standing order for this. If you do not pay regularly, you may not have enough money in your account to pay for your care and support and this could result in your direct payment ending.  You can find the sort code and account number details for your card account on the front of the debit card you received, or by logging into your account online. If you need help finding your account details call EML (Prepaid Financial Services) Customer Services.

If you have questions about the contribution you have been told you need to pay contact the council’s Financial Assessment Team. Information about charging can be found in our cost of care article.

How direct payments are monitored

The council has a responsibility to check that the money paid onto the card is being used to meet the needs and outcomes in your plan. The council can look at your card account statements online and see the payments you have made from your account. There is no need to send bank account statements to the council or complete regular monitoring records.

You can obtain card account statements with full details of your spending either by downloading them from your account online, or asking the council to post monthly paper statements to you. If you have not already set this up, you can contact the Direct Payments Monitoring Team at any time to request paper statements.

Cash is usually not needed to pay for care and support. The council advises to only withdraw and use cash when really necessary, as a result of the support you are buying - for example if you are using taxis and the company cannot invoice you.  This will be discussed with you when the card is set up. Cash should never be used to pay personal assistant wages.

Find out if you are eligible for a direct payments card account

The direct payments card account is only available to people receiving regular direct payments.

Problems or issues with the direct payments card account

The council will support you in using the account and ensure it works for you. Some common issues and solutions are included below.

If the amount of your purchase is more than your available balance, your purchase will be declined and you must wait until the card has sufficient funds. You cannot spend more money than is held on the card account.

If you build up a high balance in the account and are aged 18 and over, you will be able to keep up to 4 weeks’ worth of contingency balance on the direct payments card account. Parents of disabled children will be able to keep up to 8 weeks’ worth of contingency. The council will talk to you about reclaiming money back if your contingency balance is above this level.

If you forget or lose your PIN you should call one of the EML (Prepaid Financial Services) numbers listed above. You can only change your PIN if you have cash machine access (most cards do not).

If your card has been lost or stolen, or you believe its security has been
compromised, you must inform EML (Prepaid Financial Services) immediately and follow up with the council’s customer services team (numbers above). A new card will be delivered directly to you within 6 to 14 working days.

You should contact the council’s customer service teams (numbers above) if:

  • you change your address
  • your card is about to expire and you haven’t received a new one
  • you wish to cancel your prepaid card or no longer wish to use direct payments

If you are not happy with the service you are getting, in the first instance you should speak with the team or service involved. Most problems can usually be quickly resolved  this way. You can ask a friend or relative to do this on your behalf if you wish.

For further information about making a complaint read our article on complaints, compliments and feedback for the council.