Croydon has been recognised at the 2008 e-government national awards for its e-Pay Cashless Schools Project which will see dinner money collection across the local authority exceed £3.4 million during the 2008/2009 academic year through its online ParentPay service.

The awards are supported by prime minister Gordon Brown and intended to recognise organisations that use new and innovative technologies to deliver better public services. This year saw a record 588 nominations across 11 categories. The e-Pay Cashless Schools Project, dreamed up four years ago by catering manager Allyson Lloyd and ParentPay founder Lynne Taylor to create cashless schools, won its award in the "Local e-Government excellence: Take-up & usage growth" category.

Minister for transformational government Tom Watson MP, and Government chief information officer John Suffolk presented the winners with their awards at a black-tie dinner at the City of London’s Guildhall, on Tuesday (January 20). Paying tribute, Gordon Brown said: "The 2008 awards saw a record number of nominations from across the country - individuals, teams and organisations who are using new technologies in innovative and creative ways to deliver better public services. When times are tough, as they are now, it is more important than ever for government to work as smoothly and efficiently as possible, so it's good to see technology providing real efficiency gains at the same time as increasing the effectiveness of services."

By replacing a system that was costly and time demanding with ParentPay’s online payment system, Croydon now has an efficient, socially inclusive service. The result is an increase in the take-up of schools meals including from children who before the service, would have been reluctant to enjoy the free meals they were entitled to for fear of been stigmatised. In addition, not having to carry money helps children feel safer.

“The vision I had with Allyson Lloyd, Croydon catering manager, four years ago has been achieved and now our project has won national recognition,” says Lynne Taylor. “It has enabled Croydon’s schoolchildren to walk safer with no dinner money in their pockets. In schools the time spent on dinner money administration has been vastly reduced and in some cases is now zero. Allyson has seen an increase in the uptake of both paid and free school meals and we have removed cash collection vehicles from the busy streets of Croydon”.

Croydon engaged ParentPay two years ago, initially to collect and manage dinner money. But it soon extended it to include school trips and clubs. And with a focus on Every Child Matters and healthy food, the project was expanded to collect and record data about the kinds of meals children were choosing. Parents can go online to see their children’s meal choices and get nutritional information.

“We are delighted to be recognised with this award. The project has improved the sustainability of the school meals service which contributes to the health of children by supplying high quality healthy meals in Croydon schools,” says Allyson Lloyd.

More information

How ParentPay is used with Pearson Phoenix's e1 service at Litcham High School, Norfolk

National e-Pay Project

E-Government National Awards