Briefing information on the online payments system being introduced by FM

This information sheet has been prepared following the discussion held at the school business managers forum in November, to outline what is happening regarding online payments and to provide answers to the questions raised by business managers at that meeting and also in subsequent interactions.

School client briefing information

The school catering service, Facilities Management, has entered into a 3 year deal with ParentPay to introduce online payments for school meals. 

 

Why are FM introducing online payment systems?

Facilities Management is introducing a number of changes to how our service works as part of a wide ranging service improvement plan. The many aspects of this plan aim to ensure that we can fully meet school and customer expectations of a modern, progressive school catering provider.

 

What are the benefits of the ParentPay online payment system?

Enabling parents to pay online for school meals (and for other school activities) provides a number of benefits to all those involved:

  • For parents/carers:
  • provides a convenient, safe and verifiable  way of paying for school meals and activities in school.
  • provides access to a detailed breakdown of account transactions and credits.

 

  • For catering service providers like us: 
  • enables  easy management of dinner money income and free school meals data, thereby reducing the time spent on school meal administration.
  • enables more effective monitoring and management of school meal debt, with the ability to set thresholds and generate payment reminders etc. via letter, email or text.
  • reduces arrears and thereby the overall cost of service.

 

For schools:

  • creates a secure cash free environment that can help reduce bullying and anti-social behaviour.
  • helps with school administration, reducing pressure on school finance staff with its clear, concise income reporting.
  • reduction in errors and improved financial reconciliation in schools.

 

Why do FM require a minimum service level agreement to 31/08/18 as part of introducing ParentPay?

Introducing the ParentPay online payments system is one of a number of investments FM is making into the catering service for the benefit of schools and is being provided under an umbrella arrangement with ParentPay initially for 3 years which the SLA runs alongside. Additionally any organisation investing in its service needs to conduct careful financial planning, and the ability to plan with confidence is difficult when a large proportion of your customer base only has a short term contractual arrangement with you.

By having greater contract security, FM will then be able to deliver further benefits for schools, over and above those linked to having ParentPay. It will act as a price regulator, providing greater stability in the price for the service. And with our commitment to re-investing benefits back into schools and the service you receive, we will be undertaking an annual price review so that as the anticipated school meals administration cost savings are realised, we will pass this benefit on to schools.

 

What are the new arrangements regarding the responsibility for school meal debt?

School meals administration, including the chasing and collecting of arrears remains the responsibility of the service, however revised procedures for reminder notices and trigger points etc. are being brought in.

Where FM undertake school meals administration, there will be a step by step process of notifications sent out by FM, to alert parents/carers about their child’s arrears status. These notifications will be issued in a timely manner, by electronic means or by letter, will give ample opportunity for the parent/carer to address arrears and will provide sufficient advance notice of any cut off point being reached. 

Should the final limit be reached the parent/carer of the child in question will be notified of the need to make alternative arrangements e.g. provide a packed lunch, as no further school meals will be provided until the arrears have been cleared or a payment plan has been agreed and adhered to. While ceasing of school meal provision is very much a last resort, clear and well communicated limits are necessary to help prevent debt levels spiralling.

FM remains responsible for the chasing and collection of any school meals debt up incurred up to the final cut off point plus for collecting all historical debt prior to a new SLA coming into effect, debt over approximately 4 weeks in value being dealt with centrally by head office and/or Bradford Council’s debt recovery service.

While it is not expected that any arrears would therefore be built up beyond the set limits, a school can at its’ discretion (communicated to FM) decide to fund the continued provision of a meal to a child.

 

How will having ParentPay affect the school meals administrator in a kitchen?

With the reduction in cash handling, and the built in reporting mechanisms and other functions, the amount of time required to be spent on school meals administration will reduce. Therefore it is expected that a separate administrator role will no longer be required. What we are proposing to do is, wherever possible, absorb the existing school meals administration hours within the total hours for the kitchen, with staff currently in the administrator role taking on a broader range of duties. FM has started initial consultation with the Trade Unions about the changes, timescales and processes involved. In the meantime, any FM staff who think they may be affected by these changes and who have concerns are encouraged to speak to their trade union representative.

 

What does a school need to do if it wants the ParentPay online payment system?

Attending one of the ParentPay awareness sessions we’re organising is a recommended first step.

Then to actually get ParentPay implemented, there are 2 initial actions that need to be taken:

  • Enter into an updated service level agreement (SLA) to at a minimum 31/08/18 with FM
  • Complete a registration form with ParentPay, (that will also involve Nationwide for “cashless” sites).

 

What happens next?

Once registered, the school will be allocated a setup manager by ParentPay, who will guide school through the process of launching the schools online payment system. This will involve:

  • Introduction to the school launch pack and online support site.
  • School account creation – manager logins, academic year setup, letter templates.
  • The scheduling of an initial training session.
  • Contact school IT to support pupil data upload.
  • Contact cashless catering partner(e.g. Nationwide) where applicable.
  • Account personalisation with school logo and welcome message for parents.
  • The provision of ParentPay template letters and posters to help with launch communications to parents.
  • Assist in producing account activation letters.
  • Communication to Parents including notification of arrears.
  • Confirm setup completion ready for live launch.
  • At go live transfer of account balances etc. onto ParentPay

Your school’s ParentPay setup manager will then continue to support school, providing further training and helping to promote cashless payments in schools to parents. Craig Smith (Implementation project Manager) and the appropriate operational managers will provide support to the school & the kitchen on behalf of FM. 


Information

Published: 11/12/2015
Audience: Head Teachers, Business Managers, Chair of Governors
Contact: Craig Smith

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