Free school meals
Free school meals are available to pupils in receipt of, or whose parents are in receipt of, one or more of the following benefits:
• Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods)
• 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 guarantee 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 four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit In addition, the following pupils will be protected against losing their free school meals as follows:
• Since 1 April 2018, all existing free school meals claimants have continued to receive free school meals whilst Universal Credit is rolled out.
This applies even if their earnings rise above the threshold during that time.
• In addition, any pupil gaining eligibility for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will be protected against losing free school meals until March 2025.
• After March 2025, any existing claimants that no longer meet the eligibility criteria at that point (because they are earning above the threshold or are no longer a recipient of Universal Credit) will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (i.e. primary or secondary). A pupil is only eligible to receive a free school meal when a claim for the meal has been made on their behalf and their eligibility, or protected status, has been verified by the school where they are enrolled or by the local authority.
Applications should be made through the citizen portal. This is the quickest and easiest way to apply and will result in an instant decision. Alternatively call the Education Helpline on 0345 155 1019.
Please note that from 1 April 2018, all children currently getting free school meals will continue to do so while Universal Credit is rolled out. This will apply even if their parents’ earnings rise above the new threshold during that time. In addition, any child who becomes eligible for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will be protected against losing these during the Universal Credit rollout period.
Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, any existing claimants that no longer meet the eligibility criteria at that point (because their earnings are above the threshold or are no longer a recipient of Universal Credit) will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (such as primary or secondary).
The Universal Credit rollout is currently expected to complete in March 2025.