wdp capital card
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Incentivising recovery

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WDP's Capital Card scheme incentivises and empowers people in substance misuse treatment and recovery

This post is based partly on information in the latest edition of Drink and Drug News.

WDP (formerly Westminster Drug Project) won the digital innovation of the year prize at the 2018 Third Sector Awards for its Capital Card scheme, essentially a loyalty card scheme for service users with the same objective as your Tesco or Sainsbury’s cards – to engage you with your provider and reward you for that engagement. Here’s an outline of how the scheme works.

The Capital Card

Empowering service users to reach new heights, the Capital Card® is a reward card scheme for service users, families and carers of WDP  services.  A Local Authority-approved scheme, it rewards and incentivises service users engagement through a simple earn-spend points system.

Much like a Tesco Clubcard or a Boots Advantage Card, it means our service users can earn points by attending appointments or engaging in treatment interventions, and spend points on fun activities such as the cinema or gym.

Born from the desires of our service users to reconnect with the real world, the Capital Card® transforms reintegration services by, quite literally, ‘tapping in’ to communities.  With a whole range of places to go and activities to choose from, our service users, families and carers have real-time access to our earn and spend directory of services.


Service users, families and carers can earn points by engaging in any activity that supports health and wellbeing.  Activities can range from attending appointments with us and other health and wellbeing services; volunteering; coming to our groups or attending wider community support groups; engaging in education, training and employment; or completing courses or programmes.

Every cardholder will have a dedicated care coordinator to provide support around points earned and spent, with accompanying individual and group care planning.  All cardholders will receive a menu of available earn activities to select from, which will flex around their evolving health and wellbeing needs.


Earning points by accessing services that support improved health and wellbeing, cardholders can then spend awarded points on local community services.  Depending on the location, these products and services could range from gyms and fitness centres; cinemas and theatres; hair and beauty salons; cafés and coffee shops; and other community-based organisations.  WDP will also provide regular points-based services, such as day-trips, weekend retreats, classes and groups.

The choice is always the cardholder’s, and there is plenty to choose from.

WDP initially conceived the idea of Capital Card while trying to improve the engagement of service users being released from prison – an arrangement was made with a local barber to provide free appointments for a haircut and shave on their day of release. This proved popular, as service users often like to have something tangible
to incentivise and reward their treatment milestones. 

Manish Nanda, joint CEO, who was key in its development, said that 

by developing more links with other local businesses, service users would have access to opportunities that they may have previously felt excluded from. After all, everyone likes something for free so why shouldn’t our service users get something extra from coming into treatment?

The card has been designed based on the principles associated with contingency management, an evidence-based treatment intervention endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and which suggests that positive behaviour change is strengthened through reinforcement, reward and recognition. It has also been mapped against the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ and all spend rewards are focused on supporting service users to achieve healthier lifestyles. The evidence suggests that even a small improvement in wellbeing can help people to flourish.

Points are awarded in real-time, allowing service users to make the immediate connection between their motivation and the incentives for their positive behaviour. There is also a companion app that acts as an e-card where users can check their points balance and see which spend partners are available in their area.

WDP has evaluated the approach, comparing treatment completion rates in Hackney over a two-year period, before and after the introduction of the Capital Card and found that the Capital Card was associated with a 50 per cent increased likelihood of clients successfully completing treatment.

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