Free school meals

Free school meals

What is it?

Your children could get free lunches and sometimes milk at school if you are receiving one of the benefits below.

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 Support
  • 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
  • Universal Credit - In England, if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get). If your child is currently eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2022.

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 2017-18, 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 or in Northern Ireland the local education and library boards. To make a claim contact your local authority (you can find contact details via the website) or get more info and a form from your local education and library board.

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.

Healthy Start

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.


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