What is the free school meals criteria and who is entitled to them?

26 October 2020, 11:02 | Updated: 26 October 2020, 11:11

Some children qualify for free school meals during term time
Some children qualify for free school meals during term time. Picture: Getty Images

How do you get free school meals and how does the scheme work? Here's what we know...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently facing pressure over providing free school meals for vulnerable children in England over the half term holiday.

After a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, the UK government extended the scheme to eligible children during the summer holiday.

However, last week MPs voted against bringing in the scheme through the October half term, despite Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland introducing their own food voucher schemes.

But how do the free school meals actually work, and who qualifies? Here’s what we know…

Some children are entitled to free school meals
Some children are entitled to free school meals. Picture: Getty Images

How do you qualify for free school meals?

Schools must provide some pupils with a free midday meal, but are different schemes across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Read More: List of restaurants, shops and councils offering free food to kids this half term

England

In England, all children in reception or years 1 or 2 are entitled to free lunches.

Across all other years, for your child to qualify, your family must get one of the following benefits:

- Universal Credit ​and your household income after tax is less than £7,400 per year (not including any benefits you get)

- Child Tax Credit, as long as you are not getting Working Tax Credit and have an annual income of less than £16,190

income-related Employment and Support Allowance

- Income Support

- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

- The guarantee part of Pension Credit

- Asylum seeker support

- Children aged between 16 and 18 who are getting Universal Credit in their own name can also get free school meals.

Those entitled to school meals on 31 March 2019 can continue to receive help until 31 December 2023, even if the household's income changes.

MPs voted against extending free school meals in England
MPs voted against extending free school meals in England. Picture: PA Images

Wales

To qualify for free school meals, your family must get one of the following benefits:

- Universal Credit ​and your household income after tax is less than £7,400 per year (not including any benefits you get)

- Child Tax Credit, as long as you are not getting Working Tax Credit and have an annual income of less than £16,190

income-related Employment and Support Allowance

- Income Support

- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

- The guarantee part of Pension Credit

- Asylum seeker support

- Children aged between 16 and 18 who are getting Universal Credit in their own name can also get free school meals.

Read More: Family from Sussex who drove five hours to Wales in lockdown were escorted back by police

Scotland

All children in primary years 1, 2 and 3 are entitled to free lunches while they are in school.

To qualify for free school meals, your family must get one of the following benefits:

- Universal Credit, and your monthly earnings are £610 or less

- Child tax credits without working tax credits, as long as your income is less than £16,105 per year

- Child tax credits and working tax credits, and your income is less than £6,900 per year

- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

- Income Support

- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

- Asylum seeker support

- Children aged between 16 and 18 who are getting Universal Credit in their own name can also get free school meals.

Children can also get free school meals if, at any point after the age of two, they were looked after (or in care)

subject to a kinship care order

subject to a guardianship order

Northern Ireland

To qualify for free school meals, your family must get one of the following benefits:

- Universal Credit, and your household earns less than £14,000 per year

- Child tax credit or working tax credit, and your household earns less than £16,190 per year

- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

- Income Support

- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

- The guarantee part of Pension Credit

- Asylum seekers support

- Children aged between 16 and 18 who are getting Universal Credit in their own name can also get free school meals.

How do I apply for free school meals?

Families need to get in touch with local councils to apply for free school meals as they have their own application forms.

Find out more the the Government website here.

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