Each council in England has its own policy on free school meals. Some councils may provide these universally for children in all primary school years, so the local policy should be checked in the first instance. Search for a council’s policy.
When a council does not universally provide free school meals to children in school year 3 or above, then free school meals are usually only available to children who are eligible for government funding.
Free school meals may also be funded when an eligible child is younger than the compulsory school age and is in full-time education.
A child will be entitled to free school meals when their parent is receiving a qualifying benefit or if the child is receiving a qualifying benefit in their own right. See the Government's standard eligibility criteria.
The qualifying benefits are:
The eligibility criteria has been temporarily extended to include children in low-income households where the parents have no recourse to public funds. The Government has stated that this will apply whilst the Covid-19 outbreak continues to impact on schools.
Under the temporary measures, the following children will be eligible:
When a child is in one of these groups, a maximum income threshold also applies of £31,500 per year (in London) or £28,200 per year (outside of London).
A child will also qualify when they are in an Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE) asylum seeking family receiving section 4 Home Office asylum support.
For further details, see the government information about these temporary categories. An application under the temporary categories usually need to be made directly to the school.