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Years 3 and above

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:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • The guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (where the family has an annual income less than £16,190 and the parent is not entitled to Working Tax Credit)
  • Working Tax Credit four week run-on (paid when this benefit stops)
  • Universal Credit (where the family's net annual earned income must not exceed £7,400)
  • Section 95 Home Office asylum support

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:

  • The child of a Zambrano carer (a derivative right to reside under European law as the primary carer of a British child)
  • The child in a family where a parent has leave to remain with no recourse to public funds that was granted on the basis of Article 8 (family or private life) grounds
  • The child in a family with no recourse to public funds who are receiving support from their council under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (this may include accommodation and/or financial support)

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.