What is it?
Your children could get free school meals if you get an income-based benefit (for example Income Support), or Child Tax Credit only. You can sometimes qualify if you get Working Tax Credit as well. But it depends on the income your tax credits have been worked out on, and where you live in the UK.
Free school meals - can I get it?
You can apply for free school meals if you or your child receive any of the following:
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 State Pension Credit
Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income of £16,190 or less
Working Tax Credit 'run-on' - the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.
With Healthy Start you can get:
Coupons to exchange for free vitamins
Weekly vouchers to buy milk, fresh or plain frozen fruit and vegetables, or infant formula milk
Healthy Start - can I get it?
If you're on certain benefits, or you get Child Tax Credit and are on a low income, you could qualify. You'll need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have a child under four.
If you are pregnant and under the age of 18, you will automatically qualify whether or not you get other benefits or Child Tax Credit.
You won't qualify if you get Working Tax Credit, unless it's just the four week extension of your payments - often called a 'run-on'. You may get a run-on after you stopped qualifying for Working Tax Credit - for example if you’ve stopped work or reduced your hours.
You don't have to get Child Benefit to qualify for Healthy Start.
Eligibility for free school meals in Scotland
Eligibility for free school meals in Scotland is similar to that in England except that, in addition, families can claim for children if they receive Working Tax Credit and their income is under £6,420 (in 2012-13, as assessed by HMRC). If you live in one of the most deprived communities in Scotland then your council may provide free meals to all children in primary classes P1 to P3.
How do I claim?
Free school meals are administered by local authorities and local education and library boards in Northern Ireland. To make a claim contact your local authority or local education and library board in Northern ireland.
Healthy Start is administered by the Department of Health. To check that you qualify and to make a claim go to the Healthy Start website.
If you qualify for Healthy Start through Child Tax Credit, you’ll automatically get an application form in the post.