Money management - Council payment and invoicing
Payment and invoicing bureaucracy
Council payments for social care services can be made legally by two payment mechanisms:
- Payment mechanism 1
Purchase agreements. A council contracts with one or more provider organisations, which may or may not have sub-contracting arrangements with others. If they do, this type of arrangement is often called an Individual Service Fund (ISF).
- Payment mechanism 2
A direct payment of cash to the client or other authorised person, who is then responsible for purchasing the social care services on his/her behalf. A nominee can act as agent to manage the purchasing or payroll. The nominee can be the Council, if it is agreed that they should act in this way.
In both payment mechanisms 1 and 2, if the Council is the nominee, the following steps should take place: the service must be requested; a contract arranged; services have to be received; an invoice has to be sent; and a payment has to be made to the provider of services. Doing all this in an efficient and effective way is essential to all lean back office systems and processes.
What are the outcomes we want to achieve?
- People receive services that are paid for by the Council in a timely way
- People receive high quality services which meet their needs and help them achieve the agreed outcomes in their assessment
- Payments to providers for timely high quality services are themselves made on time and correctly
- Queries and problems that do arise from the payments, receipt of service, and invoicing processes are dealt with efficiently and effectively to the satisfaction of:
- People who access services
What tools and resources do we need to do a good job? What are the steps we have to go through?
- A request for service from an individual or their representative or social care worker
- A contract arrangement with a provider made by the Council or the individual themselves
- An external eMarketplace or Council IT system which enables requests for service, service agreements, payments and invoicing to be managed efficiently and effectively
What are the products we will have at the end of this process?
- Quality services delivered as required on schedule
- Payments made to providers in a timely and accurate manner
- Councils who are able to monitor and report on spend in relation to service and by provider accurately and quickly
- Systems which are not bureaucratic and which are lean
- Flexible systems which enable people who receive services to have as much choice as they want through the purchasing process, with as little control as they desire
When does this process start and end and within what timescales should this process be completed?
- This process starts at the point when a person requests the council to manage a personal budget
- It ends when the service has been received to the right quality standards and has been paid
Who needs to be involved and what is their role? Who is taking the lead?
- The individual in receipt of a personal budget
- A social care worker working with the individual
- Payments administrators in the Council
- Payments administrator line management
- Provider administration officers
- Front-line provider care and support officers delivering services
- IT system providers
- Finance officers
There are many constituent parts to a payments and invoicing system, all of which absorb significant time, energy and resource. For example processing requests for service, creating a suitable provider list, making sure suitable contracts are in place, making sure that services required have been suitably delivered, and receiving and processing provider invoices so that a payment can be made in an accurate and timely manner. Often expensive finance management modules are put in place to manage these payment and invoicing systems. Many additional staff and things like call monitoring systems are to set up and manage contracts with providers.
As a result of the Care Act's focus on personalisation, councils will need to work in new ways to give people the choice and control they require. Councils have the opportunity to use fewer resources and achieve slimmed down payment and invoicing mechanisms. This will enable them to deliver their statutory functions, continue to support greater choice and control by the individual, and enable providers to deliver what their customers want.