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Is Your Child Entitled to Free School Meals?

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 3 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Free School Meals School Meals

When your child begins full-time education the issue of what they will do at lunchtime is one that has to be looked at and considered. It is not always possible for a child to either return home for lunch or to be provided with a lunch of their own – either by giving them money or making them a packed lunch – so therefore one must consider free school meals as an option.

Availability of Free School Meals

Free school meals are provided in the United Kingdom where the local education authorities see fit. Although it is law that all children should be given the option of a free school meal, should their circumstances permit, not all local education authorities in conjunction with their respective councils can afford such a provision. Free school meals now only apply in England and Wales – again where provisions exist – but in Scotland this is something that is only allowed at the discretion of individual education departments.

Who is Eligible?

The first things to remember is that your local education authority is responsible by law to provide your child with free school meals should you fall into any of the categories – or criteria- that are required for them to do so. It is a given that any student in full time education is entitled to free school meals.

Those who are most eligible for free school meals are the following:

  • Children whose parents receive Family Income Support
  • The children of parents receiving Income Based Job-Seekers Allowance
  • Any student whose parents receive Child Tax Credit but do not recieve Working Tax Credit and whose annual family income is less than £16,190 as assessed by HM Revenue & Customs (2016 - these values are changed anually).
  • Those children who are supported by Part VI of the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999
  • Children who are being cared for by guardians who receive Pension Credit (under the ‘Guarantee Credit Element’).
Nursery School children are only eligible for free school meals if they are being taught before and after the lunch break. Also students within sixth form education may be eligible given the relevant criteria but students undertaking further education are not eligible and therefore the provision of a lunch is at the discretion of the student and/or parent.

Your local council or education authority will be able to provide you with further information on any special circumstances that they may perceive as being reasonable grounds for receiving free school meals.

Applying for Free School Meals

When you first apply for a place at a particular school for your child they will ask you – if the provision to do so is there – if your child wishes to take advantage of the free school meals system. If this is the case you will be required to fill out an application form or renewal of free school meals application form and also provide proof of your child’s eligibility. With this form you will be asked to provide the school with a copy of your Pension Guarantee Credit notice, proof of Income Based Job Seekers Allowance of Child Tax Credit.

It is worth noting at this stage that if you do not – or cannot – provide the school with the relevant information, which they will forward on to the local education authority, your child will not be allowed to take free school meals and as a result you as the guardian or parent may incur a daily charge for a meal if your child wishes to have one in school.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
gfordx - Your Question:
Hiya. I am a single parent and a full time student nurse, I do not receive any tax credits but I do receive a NHS bursary to help with child care costs. My child is in year 3, is he eligible for free school meals?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should help you further.
GetTheRightSchool - 6-Oct-17 @ 2:14 PM
Hiya.. I am a single parent and a full time student nurse, I do not receive any tax credits but I do receive a NHS bursary to help with child care costs. My child is in year 3, is he eligible for free school meals?
gfordx - 3-Oct-17 @ 7:37 PM
Does anyone know my stepdaughter lives with us she spends 3 nights at her mums a week = just 2 school meal days and we receive working tax credits her mother has recently reviewed benefits after walking out her job as she doesn't want to lay child support and has applied for the child to have free school dinners. As her daughter lives with us and we get working tax credit I thought the child isn't allowed free school dinners ? How can I find out as I don't want to get in trouble. Thanks
Meme - 20-Sep-17 @ 3:41 PM
I have recently returned to work and am now aware that my child is no longer entitled to free school meals. Is this the case as of the day I return to work or is she eligible for free school meals for the rest of the term/year? Also, do I need to inform anyone of this change to cancel the free school meals? Thanks.
Loz - 13-Jun-17 @ 12:30 AM
Hi my daughter is scholared at private school but all the extras are crippling us as a family the meals are quite expensive too are there any places to apply for monetary help and can you get free school meals at private school? I am disabled and on income support
Skiddy79 - 8-Jun-17 @ 10:33 AM
Bigwig - Your Question:
My partner works 24 hours a week are my children entitled to free school meals or not?

Our Response:
You can apply for free school meals if you or your parnter/child receive any of the following via the EntitledTo link here.
GetTheRightSchool - 5-May-17 @ 2:25 PM
My partner works 24 hours a week are my children entitled to free school meals or not?
Bigwig - 5-May-17 @ 7:52 AM
My daughter is 13 years old. I am on benefits so my daughter should be entitled to free school meals, however money for her meal is still deducted from my parent pay account. I don't understand this.
Annie - 6-Apr-17 @ 4:09 PM
nikkij1 - Your Question:
Hi I am just looking for helpt to see if I can get help with free school meals for my son has he is starting to go to nursery fulltime after the easter holidays any info would be great

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here.
GetTheRightSchool - 24-Mar-17 @ 10:06 AM
hi i am just looking for helpt to see if i can get help with free school meals for my son has he is starting to go to nursery fulltime after the easter holidays any info would be great
nikkij1 - 23-Mar-17 @ 5:21 PM
I now receive Working Tax credit as working for only 24 hours a week due to my hours being cut and have been told that ANY PERSON HAVING ANY WTC even if it is a penny and you have savings/income UNDER £16.00 Will Not receive ANY help with free school meals,so if you are married and only work 24 hours a week this government will simply say NO and get lost.
Allan Carter - 30-Jan-17 @ 9:00 AM
My son name jan rojas at in secondary 10 F I renew my son free meal last year sept 2016 until now im still waiting for nothing any letter from your office no answer at all ,my son still waiting i'm receiving tax child benefits and low income pls! help me to find out why ????
Anne - 11-Jan-17 @ 4:23 PM
I live alone with my children and receive child tax credits, their father and I split last year but the form simply asks for both parents name, do I put the father's name down if we don't live together? If I put both names down it looks like we are together and therefore not eligible for free school meals?They do have a dad he just lives else where
Sam - 4-Nov-16 @ 7:49 AM
Emma - Your Question:
Do you still get free school meals at 17 if in full time education and parents are on low income? ? Thanks

Our Response:
Free School Meals are available to any full-time student who is still at school and eligible. This also includes sixth form students. However, meals are not available for students at further education level. Please see link here.
GetTheRightSchool - 30-Sep-16 @ 10:53 AM
Do you still get free school meals at 17 if in full time education and parents are on low income? ? Thanks
Emma - 29-Sep-16 @ 11:15 AM
Gill- Your Question:
Hi I work full time get child tax & working tax and I get dla for my son. Can he get free school meals ? Thanks

Our Response:
You can check whether you are eligible via the gov.uk site here. I hope this helps.
GetTheRightSchool - 19-Aug-16 @ 9:43 AM
Hi I work full time get child tax & working tax and I get dla for my son . Can he get free school meals ? Thanks
Gill - 18-Aug-16 @ 7:28 AM
Amy - Your Question:
My husband doesn't work but I used to work so we both basically don't work can I still apply for free school meals for my child

Our Response:
You can check with your local council to see if your child qualifies for free school meals. You find out how to apply via the gov.uk link here.
GetTheRightSchool - 19-Jul-16 @ 12:11 PM
My husband doesn't work but I used to work so we both basically don't work can I still apply for free school meals for my child
Amy - 18-Jul-16 @ 5:14 PM
My son is a single full time dad of twochildren working 16 hours a week and hes paying for sons school dinners every week yet his only earning lowest wage and gets tax credits
Angela - 3-Jul-16 @ 7:31 PM
I have 4 children on free school meals I'm about to start a job which is 9 thousand a year .. please tell me if I can still get free school meals
jul - 15-Apr-16 @ 2:03 PM
Hi, my child will be full time at nursery in a few weeks and I have been told I will have to pay for her school meals as I do not receive income support. My partners income is less than 16,000 so I'm not too sure how this will work for us?
Sam - 1-Oct-15 @ 10:47 PM
I receive working tax credit however all the money I do get is below £16040 and I cannot get free meals for my 2 children I think this is absolute madness how are people meant to be able to afford to live.
Sara - 10-Sep-15 @ 4:29 PM
missie - Your Question:
Please can you tell me if my to boys are still getting free school meals.mason mcleish,and murphey macleish.ravenswood school.thank u

Our Response:
You would have to contact the school directly, we do not hold such information.
GetTheRightSchool - 4-Sep-15 @ 1:57 PM
Please can you tell me if my to boys are still getting free school meals.mason mcleish,and murphey macleish .ravenswood school.thank u
missie - 3-Sep-15 @ 4:26 PM
@tray - as specified in the article, nursery school children are only eligible for free school meals if they are being taught before and after the lunch break. Your local council or education authority will be able to provide you with further information on any special circumstances that they may perceive as being reasonable grounds for receiving free school meals.
GetTheRightSchool - 18-Jun-15 @ 12:54 PM
Hi my 3 year old is due to start school in September I don't work but my partner does while we do get a small amount of WTC he is on a low wage will my son be entitled for free school meals to start with he will only be going one full day a week
tray - 16-Jun-15 @ 1:10 PM
I wondered if anyone could help would my children get free school meals me and my partner work part time and recieve child tax credit but also receive bit of working tax but income is still very low
lisa - 10-Jun-15 @ 12:52 PM
My child is 3 years old and goes to pre-school. Redundant in November, now receive income support. Should my child get free school meals for the 2 full days he is at preschool?
Bee - 2-Mar-15 @ 3:38 PM
Hi i was hoping someone could give me advice. My son is currently in a public school and moving to a private school in a few weeks. I am currently on benefits and he receives free school meals. A family member is kindly paying for my son to go to private school. During the transition of my son moving school i got a letter from the board telling me my son will still get free meals in his new school. Is this correct? Should i cancel the free meals? I honestly didnt think this could happen in a private school. I am also scared incase he is the only child receiving free meals in the school. Please let me no asap i would not want him to be differnt from anyone else in the school. Many thanks.
sarah - 3-Jan-15 @ 1:00 AM
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