All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 at state schools in England automatically get free school meals. However, parents and guardians are encouraged to apply for free school meals when they enrole their child in school, as this can help their child’s school to attract additional ‘pupil premium‘ funding to support learning.
Parents/carers in receipt of the following support payments will be entitled to receive free school meals:
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 (IS)
Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (IBJSA)
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (IRESA)
The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, that does not exceed £16,190)
Working Tax Credit run-on (the payment someone receives for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
Children who receive a qualifying benefit in their own right are also allowed to receive free school meals.
Please Note that from 1 April 2018, all existing free school meals claimants will continue to receive free school meals whilst Universal Credit is rolled out. This will apply even if their earnings rise above the new threshold during that time. In addition, any child gaining eligibility for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will be protected against losing free school meals 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 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).
The Universal Credit rollout is currently expected to complete in March 2023.
How to apply
Through the Citizen Portal.
Parents and carers can also ring the Education Helpline on 0345 155 1019.