How a leading charity is utilising tech to support vulnerable families during cost-of-living crisis

A national charity that works to alleviate health inequalities and food poverty in the UK, Alexandra Rose Charity is on a mission to tackle food inequality by giving families access to fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities.

  • 9 months ago Posted in

Since 2014, the charity has been providing support to 9,791 families and 18,263 children across 66 different children’s centres and community organisations. Its Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project allows families to redeem vouchers to provide them with access to healthy and affordable food to ensure children are given the healthiest possible start to their development.


A way to reach more families


However, for Alexandra Rose Charity the process of creating and shipping Rose Vouchers to market traders, greengrocers and children’s centres was time consuming. There was also a need to be able to track each voucher’s journey and understand where families needed additional support.


Working to improve the process, Alexandra Rose Charity sought expertise from digital agency, Neontribe, on how it could utilise technology to reach more families and alleviate the time-consuming processes that staff were facing. Enhancing this process would free up resources and allow more time to be spent in other critical areas of the operation, such as applying for funding from bodies like the National Lottery Community Foundation and Impact on Urban Health and growing the project to reach more families in more areas across the country.

The challenge of implementing manual processes


Faith Holland, Head of Operations at Alexandra Rose Charity, explains: “Our previous approach to processing Rose Vouchers involved high volumes of manual work including recording each voucher number and related voucher activities on spreadsheets. Children’s centres had to keep distribution records on paper as well as update spreadsheets and market traders cashing in the vouchers had to manually record the voucher numbers on paper and return them to us. This information was critical for us to understand where and when the vouchers were being spent, however the process was extremely time consuming for everyone and we were concerned that it could become a barrier to new children’s centres and traders joining the project.” 


The process of recording important information and generating statistics such as the number of families and children benefitting from the Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project, as well as number of traders and partners involved in the process was also a challenge. This was completed by manually entering the information on spreadsheets. Not only did the process take a long time, but there was also the risk of human error occurring and impacting the reliability of the data.


Leveraging technology to produce data insights


Working closely with Alexandra Rose Charity to fully understand all the requirements, Neontribe built a digital solution that would enable the operations team, market traders and children centres to easily scan Rose Vouchers. Part of this new digital capability is an app that can be downloaded to any mobile device or handset. Not only has this made the process more efficient but it has also improved data accuracy as the scanning process removes the potential for human error.


Leveraging technology has allowed the charity to fully understand the Rose Voucher journey from start to finish. Providing important information about when and where the voucher was issued, by which trader, and how long it has been in circulation for prior to the transaction. The increased access to data has allowed Alexandra Rose Charity to understand each voucher’s journey and apply interventions when needed to help families who may be struggling. It also gives the charity an opportunity to monitor for potential fraudulent transactions and with the whole process now digitised, they can provide greater transparency around how each voucher is being used, which is especially important to prospective funders.


The data analysis extends to more detailed reporting than the previous approach, helping the charity to fully understand its beneficiaries, the number of vouchers being distributed and used, churn rates and which centres or traders are processing the most transactions. Other benefits for the charity include the ability to record how many families are currently receiving help from Government initiatives like Healthy Start, which offers formula milk, fruit and veg to children under four. This means Alexandra Rose Charity can store this information and if needed, submit it to the local authority. This is significant, as it provides trackable statistics and an overview of vulnerable people that may require more ongoing support, including statistics on the number of people currently benefitting from the initiative.


Faith concludes: “The simplified process of scanning the Rose Vouchers using the mobile app means that children’s centres can register new families much faster and are able to download and access the data which helps with the on-going management of the project and support they provide for families. For market traders using the app, payments are generated much faster which means there are no delays for the finance team.


This means that we can maintain a higher retention rate for children’s centres and traders as the sign-up process is much easier. Joining up the process for everyone involved means we can support more families on the Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project than ever before and meet the increasing need for access to fresh fruit and vegetables.”


Pioneering technology: the Alexandra Rose success story:


●      In May 2023, Alexandra Rose Charity reached a new milestone by reaching two million Rose Vouchers that have been given out and spent with 58 different market traders and greengrocers.


●      The first million took seven years to achieve in comparison to the second, that took only 18 months. Although this is likely to have been influenced by the pandemic and cost of living crisis, the digital solution has allowed the charity to accelerate voucher distribution and manage the demand from the public.


●      For Alexandra Rose Charity, since 2014:

o   The number of traders has increased from five to 58.

o   The number of families has risen from 2-300 to over 3,000.

o   The number of children’s centres has multiplied from 15 to 64.

By Ian Hoddle, Director of Enterprise - Virgin Media O2 Business.
By Tracy Stanton, SVP Client Services, EMEA at Magnit.
By Mike Wager, Product Marketing Manager at Keysight Technologies.
By Darryl Brick, VP Partner Sales at Cradlepoint.
By Rod Neale, CEO and Founder of Circular Computing.