Back to School: Find out if you qualify for free school meals

Back to School: Find out if you qualify for free school meals
August 23, 2017 Felicity Anderson

free school meals

If you are concerned about finding the £400 that the average family spends annually on lunch money for one child, then it is worth investigating whether you qualify for free school meals.

The UK government and local authorities offer various levels of support, including free lunches or breakfasts, depending on the age of your child and your financial circumstances.

Here CashLady looks at the main criteria for qualifying for free school meals, and where you can find relevant information, such as where to apply, based on where you are in the UK.

Free school meals for younger children

Universal Infant Free School Meals were introduced in 2014 by the Coalition Government for all English state school pupils in the first three years of primary school.

to one free meal at school each day.

There are also similar schemes operating in Wales and Scotland.

Free school meals in England

If you live in England or Wales then the UK Government website provides a useful postcode checker to help identify whether your child is entitled to free school meals and how to apply through your local authority website.

The website also provides the typical eligibility criteria for free school meals across England.

Eligibility for free school meals in England

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

Free school meals in Scotland

If you live in Scotland then you can access information on whether your child qualifies for free meals on the Scottish Government website. Like in England, you should contact your local authority to register.

Eligibility for free school meals in Scotland

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit, and your income is less than £16,105
  • Both maximum Child Tax Credit and maximum Working Tax Credit and your income is under £6,420
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit, where take home pay is less than £610 per month*

If you are between 16 and 18 years old and receive any of these benefits in your own right, you can claim free school lunches for yourself.

Free school meals

Free school meals in Northern Ireland

Children in Northern Ireland may qualify for free school meals, including lunch and milk. You can read more about eligibility and find links to your local authority website through the NI Direct Government Services website.

Eligibility for free school meals in Northern Ireland

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit with an annual taxable income of £16,190 or less
  • Working Tax Credit “run-on” – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Your child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or he, or she, is a boarder at a special school

Free school meals in Wales

You can read more about free school meals in Wales on the Welsh Government website, which provides a helpful ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section and explains that you should apply through your local authority or directly through your child’s school.

Eligibility for free school meals in Wales

Your child may be eligible for free school meals if you are in receipt of any of the following benefits/support payments:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and their annual income does not exceed £16,190
  • Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit.
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