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Free school meals

Schools must provide some pupils with a free midday meal. This page explains who qualifies for this and how to apply.

There are different schemes for free school meals in different parts of the UK

England

Can my child get free school meals?

All children in reception or years 1 or 2 are entitled to free lunches. However, this doesn't in itself mean your family will be entitled to free school meals and the extra support provided with this.

For your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get one of the following benefits:

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

Families who were already getting free school meals on 31 March 2019 can carry on getting them until 31 December 2023, even if the household's income changes. 

I just lost my job and claimed Universal Credit. Will I be able to claim free school meals?

Most councils work out whether you can get free school meals based on your earnings in your previous assessment period for Universal Credit. This can mean that councils aren't able to process your claim for free school meals until after you have received your first Universal Credit payment.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You need to get in touch with your local council to apply for free school meals. They may have their own application forms for you to fill in.

Wales

Can my child get free school meals?

 For your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get one of the following benefits:

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

Families who were already getting free school meals on 31 March 2019 can carry on getting them until 31 December 2023, even if the household's income changes. 

I just lost my job and claimed Universal Credit. Will I be able to claim free school meals?

Most councils work out whether you can get free school meals based on your earnings in your previous assessment period for Universal Credit. This can mean that councils aren't able to process your claim for free school meals until after you have received your first Universal Credit payment.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You need to get in touch with your local council to apply for free school meals. They may have their own application forms for you to fill in.

Scotland

Can my child get free school meals?

For your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get one of the following benefits:

Your child 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.

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

I just lost my job and claimed Universal Credit. Will I be able to claim free school meals?

Some councils are able to provide free school meals for children whose families have made a new claims for Universal Credit and haven't had their first payment yet. Check your council's website for their claims process.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You will need to apply to your council for free school meals. Your council might need you to fill out an application form.

Northern Ireland

Can my child get free school meals?

For your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get one of the following benefits:

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

I just lost my job and claimed Universal Credit. WilI I be able to claim free school meals?

The Education Authority works out whether you can get free school meals based on your earnings in your previous assessment period for Universal Credit. This can mean that they aren't able to process your claim for free school meals until after you have received your first Universal Credit payment.

How do I apply for free school meals?

The application form to apply for free school meals is available on the Northern Ireland Education Authority website.

Updated: September 2021