FREE school meals are essential for many disadvantaged households – we explain how much help you can get.
The cost of living crisis is pushing many families to the brink, so it’s important to get extra help you’re entitled to, like free food stamps.
Free school meals were first made available in the 1940s and it is now estimated that one in five pupils qualify.
Pupils in England can benefit from free school meals during school terms until the end of the second year. However, older students are only eligible if their parents receive certain benefits.
Families on Universal Credit can only qualify for free school meals if their annual income is below £7,400, not including benefits.
Aid was stepped up during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and footballer Marcus Rashford campaigned for funding to stay after the pandemic.
What are the free school meals payment dates for 2022?
For those receiving the cash subsidy, the second payment of the summer vacation food subsidy will be released to bank accounts on August 8.
There is no information on the School Authority’s website on how and when vouchers are received.
No information is currently available for the payment of free school meals.
However, the Education Authority website lists these key dates:
- June 2022: Opening of the online application process for 2022/2023.
- June 2022 – July 31, 2022: Apply within the above period with the correct documentation to ensure your application can be processed before the start of the new school year. Requests received after this period will not be processed in time for September 1st.
- August 2022: processing of all requests before July 31 and late requests from August 1.
How to apply for free school meals
Children who are entitled to a free school meal and whose parents are claiming benefits can apply for it. The benefits included are:
- Income support
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Income Support Benefit
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act in 1999
- The guaranteed element of the pension credit
- Child tax credit (provided you are not eligible for working tax credit and have an annual gross income not exceeding £16,190)
- Workers tax credit paid for 4 weeks until you cease to qualify for the workers tax credit
- Universal Credit
The School Authority website offers an online application process.
There’s a checklist to check your eligibility, list of documents you’ll need, and anything else you might need.
You must create an account before applying.
The claim must be submitted by the benefit recipient and must be named on the proof of benefit letter, tax credit award notice, or universal credit payment breakdown.
You will need to include in your application any children for whom you wish to receive a meal and for whom you have parental responsibility.
What help can I benefit from during school holidays?
Families can also get help during the holidays – vouchers can be redeemed in supermarkets and are equivalent in value to the meal your child receives at school.
Usually parents can claim up to £90 per child during the summer holidays, but the amount varies depending on where you live.
Each local council decides what funding to make available during the holidays, using money it has received from the government’s Household Support Fund.
If your child receives free school meals, they should be eligible. However, check with your local council as this may vary from region to region.
Vouchers can be redeemed at these supermarkets:
It’s also worth checking with the school to see if any supermarkets won’t accept them.
There may be other ways to save money for school this year. Lidl has launched its own inexpensive school uniform.
These are the best places to buy your school uniform so that it lasts all year round.
You can also buy a full school uniform from Aldi for just £5.