GPS: Could fintech help solve the Free School Meals debate?

Rapid measures facilitated by fintech have been pivotal in aiding society as the pandemic has continued to affect our daily lives. Following the recent free school meals debacle that continues to gain momentum, we spoke to GPS Chief Operating Officer, Matt Clare, to get his two cents on how fintech could help alleviate the issue.

Payment Expert: How do you think fintech could improve the current situation?

Matt Clare: As we already saw in 2020, when the use of contactless cards and mobile payments rocketed to limit person-to-person contact at a time when it was greatly needed, fintech has the capacity to invoke great societal change to wide benefit. 

Fintech can deliver much better outcomes in the free school meals situation through a highly decentralised ‘trust people with some safeguards’ approach. Decision making on what to buy and where to buy it from would be in households’ hands, not governments. Dietary requirements would be managed at a household level as would preferences (we’ve all been told off by parents for being fussy eaters!), meaning less food waste.

The taxpayer would see much-improved value for money, reduced administrative burden, fewer deliveries (and therefore CO2 emissions and person-to-person contact) and a greater sense of transparency.

PE: What specific fintech solutions do you envisage being able to help?

MC: Fintech offers several alternative routes, but two in particular spring to mind:

Payment cards (physical or virtual) can limit how much can be loaded or spent, as well as where and when funds may be used. For example, spend could be limited to all supermarkets or approved supermarkets only. Spend could even be limited to supermarkets which have coded to only allow the purchase of an approved list of products on the free school meals card.

Similarly, QR code vouchers can help ensure that spend takes place in approved outlets, providing value for money and quality. 

Both options can help give families receiving free school meals the freedom to make their own food choices, whilst ensuring taxpayer funds are optimally used.

PE: A final word to Boris?

MC: Once this pandemic is over, there will be an unprecedented amount of government debt, with tax revenues similarly impacted through increased unemployment. Therefore, it is essential that governments establish the right processes urgently to help combine efficiency with people-focused solutions. 

Across the public sector, from benefits disbursement to expense management, fintech should play a significant role. Fintech is also speeding up the elimination of cash which will help reduce tax evasion. Finally, the UK fintech sector is a significant employer and area of growth, which is ultimately critical to the UK’s recovery and prosperity.