Apply for free school meals

Find out if your child is eligible for free school meals and how to apply.


  • can apply online for free school meals by clicking the green button below
  • will get an immediate response and confirmation email after you've completed your application

Applications for children starting in Reception Year in September will be processed during August. 

If your child is attending a nursery school:

  • they must be in a maintained school nursery as a registered pupil at the school (your provision can advise you whether it is a maintained or a private setting) 
  • your child must be in receipt of education before and after lunch on the same day
  • you must be in receipt of a qualifying benefit (as described below); and
  • apply online by clicking green button below.

Please note that from 1 April 2018, all children currently getting free school meals will continue to do so while Universal Credit is rolled out. This will apply even if their parents’ earnings rise above the new threshold during that time. In addition, any child who becomes eligible for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will be protected against losing these during the Universal Credit rollout period.

Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, any existing claimants that no longer meet the eligibility criteria at that point (because their earnings are above the threshold or are no longer a recipient of Universal Credit) will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (such as primary or secondary).

The Universal Credit rollout is currently expected to complete in March 2022.

If your child is in receipt of Universal Infant Free School Meals (your child is in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2), we recommend you apply if you believe you may be eligible for Free School Meals because the protection will continue beyond Year 2.

If you have a sibling not already in school, you will need to apply in August and, if eligible, they will be protected until March 2022. If you are not eligible for Free School Meals at that time, they will not receive Free School Meals other than Universal Infant Free School Meals.

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Your child will get free school meals if you receive any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit but no element of Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenues & Customs) that does not exceed £16,190
  • If you are supported under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Working Tax Credit during the four-week period immediately after your employment finishes or after you start to work less hours per week
  • Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400 (£616.67 per month), as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods).

To check if your child is eligible, apply online for an immediate response or call 01473 260989.

If your child attends a sixth form you need to contact the school directly to find out if they are eligible and apply.

If your application is successful:

  • you will get an immediate online response (on screen) and a confirmation message will be sent to your Citizens Portal account
  • we will contact the school directly to confirm that your child is eligible for free meals and when this will start.

If your application is unsuccessful:

  • you will get an immediate online response (on screen) and a confirmation message will be sent to your Citizens Portal account
  • if required, you may have to submit proof of household earnings 
  • if you are new to Universal Credits, we may have to keep checking your eligibility for up to six weeks
  • we will contact the school directly to confirm that your child is not eligible for free meals.

What evidence of benefits should I send with my application?

You don't need to submit proof when you apply online. If we need evidence from you, we will ask for it.

We will check your entitlement securely via the government's benefits database.

To do this we need your: 

  • surname
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number or National Asylum Seeker Service reference number 

The online check will only identify whether you are entitled to free school meals, no other information is revealed.

If the check indicates that you aren't eligible, this doesn't necessarily mean that your children aren't entitled to free school meals. It could be that you have entered some information incorrectly or that we need to continue to check for a period of six weeks if you are a new applicant for Universal Credits. If you believe that you are entitled, please contact the Free School Meals team on 01473 260989 or email

What if I cannot apply online?

In exceptional circumstances, we will accept a paper application, if, for example, you do not have access to the internet, have no email address or have language difficulties. Please ring the Free School Meal team for an application form on 01473 260989 or email

How often will I need to apply for free school meals?

As long as you remain eligible, this is an ongoing entitlement and you don't have to apply again.

During the roll out of Universal Credits, if you are eligible for free school meals at any time between 1 April 2018 and March 2022 when the roll out ends, you will receive free school meals over that period, regardless of any change in circumstances over that four year period.

Can I claim for more than one child on one application?

Yes, you can apply for all your children in the same application with the exception of nursery aged children.  Please visit the Early Years page for further information.

How are free school meals paid for?

No money changes hands between the Council and the claimant.

Once your application has been successful we will notify your child’s school that they are entitled to free school meals and confirm the date this entitlement commences.

Please be aware that your child/children can have a free meal at school up to the value of the current rate, any cost over the current rate will need to be paid for. Details of the rates can be obtained direct from the school.

Will my child receive tokens or any evidence they are entitled to free school meals?

Not always, every school is different. Once your application has been confirmed as successful contact the school to see how they run the scheme.

Who is informed that my child is receiving free school meals?

We aim to keep this confidential between the claimant, school and local authority.

What do I do if my circumstances change?

Unless you update any change in your circumstances (for example, name change or change of address), please be aware that your application may be rejected automatically if you are a new applicant. 

All changes can be made via your online account.


  • Call 0345 606 6067 if you have any questions. You won't be able to apply over the phone because you need to provide an email address and password and sign the declaration stating that you have parental responsibility.
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