Michael Dolan, Vocational Education Manager
Angela Allan, Welfare Manager
What was the challenge?
On Friday, 20 March 2020, schools across the United Kingdom were closed due to COVID-19. This resulted in vulnerable families being unable to afford extra food for children who are entitled to free school meals. North Lanarkshire Council policy was to support families in their communities, this would support residents impacted by this crisis.
What was the solution?
North Lanarkshire and PayPoint have worked together since 2014. Using PayPoint’s online portal, council staff can issue Cash Out vouchers to support emergency funds payments to vulnerable customers via SMS, email and postal messages. This technology was perfectly placed to help reach residents in need of emergency funds.
Through a short development period, PayPoint were able to utilise the existing portal to implement the council’s requirements. On Friday 27th March, North Lanarkshire started issuing school meal vouchers to their residents.
North Lanarkshire council provides one £20 voucher per week for each eligible child and the flexibility of the portal means that vouchers can be issued via text, email or by post, dependent on the details held for each resident. Residents then redeem their voucher at a local PayPoint retailer, over 200 in the North Lanarkshire area.
The PayPoint service is available in convenience stores, petrol stations and small supermarkets that are typically open 7 days a week. They provide a convenient place to redeem vouchers whilst complying with government guidance of staying close to home and limiting unnecessary journeys. It also helps support local businesses during this time and residents can choose to redeem in either cash or groceries to the voucher value.
Since implementation, over 120,000 vouchers have been issued to families with children who are entitled to a free school meal.
Michael Dolan and Angela Allan, both managers at North Lanarkshire Council, said "our existing partnership with PayPoint has enabled us to react quickly and flexibly to the needs of our residents during this period of uncertainty.
The portal allows us to issue vouchers to redeem at over 200 retail locations meaning it is extremely convenient for our residents. Our team can also monitor redemptions in real-time enabling them to offer support to those who need it with the full transaction history at their fingertips".