Thursday, March 13, 2008

£25,000 biometric cashless system bought - based on "commonly perceived benefits"

At the end of January Sophie McKeand's child's school told parents they were "introducing a "cashless catering system", where children will pay for their school dinners using either a fingerprint identification system or a pin number". This is in Flintshire, Wales.

Sophie rightly objected "to have such important and sensitive biometric data being taken from children for a matter as trivial as buying lunch is absolutely absurd."

Since then Sophie has been busy finding out, via the Freedom of Information Act, just how much these systems cost (using our tax money), where the funding is coming from, who made the decision to implement such systems, etc. - interesting reading indeed.

Her Freedom of Information questions and answers, for Flintshire County Council, are on the "Biometrics in Schools" forum over on the NO2ID site.

Here are a few questions and answers:

3. What is the FULL, TOTAL AND FINAL cost of this system in Alun School?

A3.The full cost of the system in the Alun School is as follows:

PCS Systems £20,905.00
Software £ 1,062.32
Installation £ 1,162.50
Server £ 283.14
Printer etc. £ 574.00
Writing/Electrics £ 1,162.50

TOTAL £25,149.46 [this is cost for one school]

1. I wish to be provided with ALL cost / benefit analysis that have been completed concerning anything whatsoever to do with implementing these cashless systems in Flintshire schools. Not just for Mold Alun but for all schools in Flintshire as stated in the quote from the first letter from Alun School, above. This includes all equipment, maintenance and IT services.

A1. The Council holds no information regarding a cost/benefit analysis. [What?]
The commonly perceived benefits however, are that..... then follows some drivel about reducing bullying and enabling children to eat before afternoon registration, up take of free meals increased, blah, blah.

So, lets get this right...

...the council spends 25K of our money on a biometric/pin cashless catering system purely based on "commonly perceived benefits" - with no cost/benefit analysis to justify such expenditure?

IMHO this sounds like jawdropping negligence.

Flintshire County Council sound like they've been sold a line. "Commonly perceived benefits" that are backed up with absolutely no academic or government literature, but I guess probably literature from sales persons.

It would seem that the implementation of the systems (that were originally proposed to be run throughout all Flintshire Schools, which would be around £250,000 of taxpayers money) has not been a completely open and transparent process, as reported today:

"Cllr Ray Dodd said he shared some of Miss McKeand's concerns. "I am surprised that this biometric system has been introduced in a school already without any consultation with elected councillors.

The education department said there has been extensive consultation, I have not been able to establish any consultation with county councillors,"


Nick Bourne said...

Hi, an interesting site with lots of helpful links. Thanks. I'm blogging about this issue too

Pippa King said...

Hi Nick, thanks for blogging about this and please use whatever you want from this site.

People are simply not aware these systems are used in schools, the £1000's spent of our money funding this and the lack of communication between schools and parents on using children's biometrics for non educational activities - so thanks for airing this.

Anonymous said...

You guys are drama queens, its the next logical step forward, you talk about the initial cost but truth is it is far cheaper to maintain long term ie no card printing, fraud etc. we are on the verge of entering into a cashless society, were you this stubborn when we got colour televisions??