As cost of living continues to skyrocket, ensuring your child has free school meals is more important than ever. Here is how to check if yours is eligible
Free school meals can make a massive difference to families who are struggling to make ends meet.
As the cost of living continues to rise, it is more important than ever to save money wherever you can and the government offers free school meals to millions of children who are eligible.
Eligibility is based on numerous factors and comes down to how individual councils deal with the process.
However, across the country there are some basic requirements children must meet to gain access to the support.
The process takes a matter of minutes to complete but it has been criticised by councils.
Here is everything you need to know about free school meals in the UK.
How to check if your child is eligible for free school meals
There are multiple factors that come into play when determining which children should get free school meals.
Income is the largest factor and the government has broken this down into several types of financial situations.
Children of parents or guardians who receive the following are eligible for free school meals:
- 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 four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit – if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)
If children get paid any of these benefits directly and not through a parent or guardian, they are still entitled to free school meals.
How to apply for free school meals
As free school meals are seen as a government benefit, to apply you must go through the government website.
Applications are fairly straightforward, as you must first put in your postcode to begin the process.
From there, you will be taken to the website of your local council.
Each website will be slightly different, but the questions asked to receive the free meals will be broadly the same.
Before applying, you will need the following:
- The details of each child to be claimed for, including their date of birth
- Each child’s school year group
- The parent or carer’s details including their date of birth, address, phone number and email address
- The parent or carer’s National Insurance (NI) number or National Asylum Seeking Service (NASS) number
To start the application process, follow the link here.
Why has the application process been criticised?
The Local Government Association, which represents local councils across the country, has said that if the process was simplified, one million more kids could be on free school meals.
It argues that if automatic enrolment for free meals was introduced and eligibility expanded to include all children who meet the income criteria, regardless of their parents’ circumstances, tens of thousands more could take part.
Cllr Shaun Davies, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Rising food, fuel and other costs affect everybody, but particularly low-income households with children who rely on extra support to make ends meet.
“Given these pressures, it is absolutely essential that all those who are eligible can get the help they need, including access to free school meals, at a time when we know the price of food and the general cost of living are spiralling.”