Council team's award win secures £500 food bank donation

By Barrie Hudson - 25 November 2020


Award-winning Swindon Borough Council staff have earned Swindon Food Collective a £500 donation prize.

  • Swindon Food Collective manager Cher Sawyer MBE and borough council leader David Renard

    Swindon Food Collective manager Cher Sawyer MBE and borough council leader David Renard

The team were recognised for their work in using technology to improve the processing of free school meal applications.

In recognition of their work, the Emerging Technologies team received the NDL Changing Lives Award at the software organisation's annual community awards ceremony.

They won a trophy and a £500 charity donation from the firm, and council leader David Renard and chief executive Susie Kemp chose Swindon Food Collective.

Coun Renard said: "For parents struggling with financial difficulties, finding the money to buy food can be extremely challenging.

“Thanks to the work of the Emerging Technologies team, we have made it easier for parents to apply for free school meals and, as a bonus, we’re extremely pleased to be able to support other residents struggling to afford food through the donation to Swindon Food Collective.

"The Emerging Technologies team’s achievement in winning the NDL Changing Lives Award not only cements the quality of their work within the technology industry, but also, most importantly, the benefit and importance of their work within our local community.” 

Swindon Food Collective is an independent charity which aims to help people in Swindon and the surrounding area who are suffering from financial hardship and finding it difficult to provide food for themselves, their family or dependants. 

The charity currently helps more than 7,000 people per year and has handed out more than 90 tonnes of food this year.

Charity manager Cher Smith MBE said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have sadly seen a significant increase in demand from residents struggling to provide food for themselves and their families. 

"As the pandemic continues and we once again face strict lockdown restrictions, we recognise that our food parcels will continue to be needed more than ever.

“We at Swindon Food Collective are extremely grateful for this fantastic donation from Swindon Borough Council and for any donation we receive. 

"This money will allow us to continue helping vulnerable residents source food as well as toiletries and household cleaning items to help them stay nourished, safe and healthy.  

"This practical support is especially needed during this challenging time and together we are making a genuine difference to the lives of adults and children in Swindon.”

Help accessing food or support, along with details of how to donate, can be found at

With the introduction of strict lockdown restrictions in March and with many families facing increased financial pressures, this year Swindon Borough Council has seen a significant increase in applications from residents requesting free school meals for their children.

Recognising the importance of meeting this increased demand, a programme of work, developed by the council’s Emerging Technologies Team, has ensured free school meal applications are processed efficiently so that children in Swindon can continue to benefit from this vital service.

Within this programme, the team use emerging digital solutions to reduce the need for manual processes and achieve previously unattainable speeds for processing applications.

This includes the introduction of Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technology for processing the free school meal applications. RPA within a computer completes simple, repetitive tasks with clear rules, working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and with zero mistakes. 

As a result, despite the significant increase in applications, a trial of RPA has achieved a 98 percent increase in efficiency in the speed of processing applications.

The programme has also led to improved communication between the council and the Department of Education when processing applications. This has successfully reduced the application turnaround time for parents and carers by 66 percent.

NDL collaborates with a community of public sector organisations, including Swindon Borough Council, to share best practice and innovation so that challenges can be overcome more easily.

Their annual community awards celebrate the achievements generated by public sector organisations who work with NDL. The Changing Lives Award recognises projects which use technology to make a difference in the community.

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