Free school meals
Free school meals are available to all children in reception, year 1 and year 2. They are also available to primary and secondary children whose parents/carers receive certain benefits.
Schools will continue to provide free school meals support to eligible pupils, and this may be as a hot or cold meal in-school (for those children who are from the groups still attending school) or as a meal or food parcel delivered to or collected by a family member. Some schools have arranged to replace a meal with, for instance, a supermarket voucher that can be exchanged for the child's meal.
Schools will have advised parents of how they plan to provide school meals to eligible pupils, or to arrange an equivalent such as a voucher. If a parent is in any doubt about this, or how they should collect or receive their child's meal, they should contact the school. If anyone is asked to collect a meal from school, they should observe all guidance about social distancing.
We are awaiting further guidance from the government about a possible national voucher system, but in the meantime we are confident, despite the challenges of the current situation, that schools are doing everything possible for all eligible children to access the meals to which they are entitled.
See Gov.uk: COVID-19: free school meals guidance for schools (government's guidance on free school meals).
All children in reception, year 1 and year 2, are eligible to a free school meal through the Universal Infant Free School Meal scheme. It is still important that you complete an application form as the school receives additional funding for those who are eligible.
Primary and secondary
Any child may qualify for a free school meal if you receive one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit with an annual earnings threshold that does not exceed £7,400.
- Income Support.
- Income Based Jobseekers Allowance.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Child Tax Credit (provided a parent is not entitled to Working Tax Credit) and have an annual income, as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, that does not exceed £16,190.
- Working Tax Credit run on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.
- Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit.
- Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Changes to free school meal entitlement - universal credit rollout
From April 2018 the criteria used to determine which pupils are eligible for free school meals was updated to reflect the introduction of Universal Credit and the phasing out of other income-based benefits.
Transitional protection as part of Universal Credit rollout
To make sure families are not disadvantaged during this rollout, protection arrangements have been put in place.
This means that:
- Any child eligible for free school meals on 31 March 2018 will retain their eligibility until the end of the rollout, March 2022 regardless of whether their circumstances change.
- Any child who becomes eligible during the rollout of universal credit (from 1 April 2018 to March 2022) will retain their eligibility until the end of the rollout, March 2022 regardless of whether their circumstances change.
- Once the rollout of universal credit is complete, no child will lose their entitlement and will continue to be transitionally protected until the end of their current phase of education (i.e. primary or secondary).
Secondary schools may or may not ask you to complete free school meal paperwork again as part of their induction process but this would not affect your entitlement if you were currently eligible.
How to apply for free school meals
You can pick up an application form at your child's school or print one off from this page. Schools have a choice of which application form they use so if you are unsure which form to complete please check with your school. If you have more than one child at different schools you will need to complete a separate form for each school. Please return the completed application form to the school .
Application without paperwork
For this application you won't need to supply proof of your eligibility as you give us permission to check the council's and the Department for Education's records on your behalf.
Application with paperwork
For this application you must provide the school with proof of eligibility for the relevant benefit.