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Overview - Free school meals

Parents claiming some benefits can claim free school meals for any of their children who are registered at a Staffordshire school and who would normally be at school at lunch time. School meals are a good way to ensure that your child eats well at lunchtime and you can save yourself time and money.

Even if you don't want your children to have the meals, claiming them helps their school. The more eligible parents who claim meals, the more funding the school receives.



Free school meals for reception, year 1 and 2 children

From September 2014, if you have an infant age child (those in reception, year 1 or year 2) they can receive free school meals even if you don't meet the entitlement criteria and without completing an application for them. For more information contact your school.

Pupil Premium

For every pupil registered with us as eligible under the entitlement criteria, the school will receive extra funding. This is called the pupil premium. It is used to help raise achievement levels. 

Each school decides how to spend the funding. They must publish details of what they have spent it on and the impact it has had.

So that schools (and pupils) can continue to benefit from this extra funding it is important that parents who do meet the  entitlement criteria continue to register their claim with us.



Data protection and fair processing

Any personal data collected through your application for free school meals is handled securely and in accordance with Data Protection Legislation. 

We collect personal data including your child’s name, address, date of birth, name of current and previous school, parent or guardian name, address and date of birth, national insurance number, asylum seeker number and details provided of benefits being claimed from your free school meals application. 

We will use the information to process your application for free school meals for your child(ren). 

Your application for free school meals will be kept for 6 years after processing and will then be destroyed securely.

We will share your data with schools and other agencies in order for them to carry out their statutory duties and to provide free school meals. In order to check your entitlement the parent/guardian information (name, date of birth, national insurance number of asylum seeker number) will be shared with the Eligibility Checking System, a service from the Department for Education which in turn shares information with the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Access to the Eligibility Checking System is limited to local authorities.    

We always try to ensure that information we hold about you is accurate and up to date. To help us do this please let us know if you or your child’s details change. 

If you would like further advice on how the information provided is used or have a concern please contact the Free School Meals Service in the first instance. 

Further information on how we utilise your personal data is available on our privacy notice and your data pages.



Free school meals and Covid-19

The government have issued guidance to schools regarding continuing provision of free school meals support via meals, food packs or vouchers at this time.

The free school meals team are unable to offer any assitance or advice regarding the issuing of vouchers or the contents of food parcels. Should you have any queries or complaints contact your school directly, check their website for more information, or follow the school's published complaints procedure (which should be on their website).

Additional temporary entitlement to free school meals

A temporary extension for entitlement to free school meals has been agreed for some additional categories of pupils. This extension is from 21 April 2020 until schools reopen to all pupils. Applications under the four categories below only should be made by completing the self-declaration form below and emailing this plus any required supporting information to freeschoolmeals@staffordshire.gov.uk 

Alternatively your school may be able to arrange to forward the completed form and details of the supporting information to us.

Please note: you should only use the self-declaration form if you wish to apply under one of the four additional temporary categories below.

If you wish to apply under the general critieria (income support, income based job seekers allowance etc.) please use the form available within the section 'How do i apply for free school meals?' which can be found towards the bottom of the page.   

There are 4 new categories for temporary entitlement:

Zambrano carers

A Zambrano carer is the primary carer of a British citizen child or dependent adult, where requiring the primary carer to leave the UK would force that British citizen to leave the European Economic Area (EEA).

You must be able to show:

  • that the carer or parent is not a British citizen
  • that the child is a British citizen
  • that the carer is a direct relative or legal guardian of the child
  • that they have primary responsibility of the child
  • that there are no other members of the carer’s family in the UK or the EEA who could look after the child
  • to meet this extended criteria you must also have a household income of less than £28,200 per year

To apply please complete the self-declaration form and provide the necessary income proof.

Right to remain under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Article 8 states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

Carers with leave to remain under article 8 are able to work, and as such are subject to a maximum annual household earnings threshold of £28,200 in order for their child to be eligible to receive free school meals.

To apply you should complete the self-declaration form, provide copy of your letter from the Home Office granting them leave to remain in the UK and/or a biometric residence card, and provide the necessary income proof.

Children of failed asylum seekers receiving support under Section 4 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Section 4 allows the Home Office to provide support to a subset of refused asylum seekers who are classed as destitute and meet their criteria. People receiving Section 4 support are not able to work, and as such there is no household income limit applied for these pupils.

To apply you should complete the self-declaration form and provide a letter from the Home Office or local authority confirming Section 4 support and/or an ASPEN card. An ASPEN card is a type of debit card that the allowance paid to asylum seekers is loaded on to.

Children in families receiving support under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 and have no recourse to public funds

Section 17 places a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

A child will be considered in need if:

  • they are unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority
  • the child’s health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired without the provision of such services
  • the child is disabled

The support local authorities provide will vary depending on the individual needs of the child and/or family. This support is not provided exclusively to people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)– however, the extended eligibility for free school meals is available only to families with NRPF. To meet the extended criteria the family must also have an annual household income of less than £28,200 per annum.

To apply you should complete the self-declaration form, provide a copy of the latest children in need pack/plan from the local authority dated within the last 6 months, and provide the necessary income proof.    

Please note: whilst the free school meals team will handle the free school meals claim, they are unable to offer any guidance or support regarding entitlement to, or how to claim for, support under the 4 categories listed above.  

Confirming household income where necessary (categories 1, 2 and 4).

Where an income threshold is being applied, the maximum annual household earnings is £28,200 after tax. This equates to £2350 per month.

To verify this, we suggest providing a copy of one of the following (originals copies are not required):

  • payslip
  • P60
  • bank statement
  • letter from their bank
  • letter from their employer



Frequently asked questions


Please note that the government have made changes to the entitlement criteria for new free school meal applications from 1 April 2018.

The entitlement criteria from 1 April 2018 is -

  • Income Support

  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance

  • Income Related Employment and Support Allowance

  • eligible for Child Tax Credit but not Working Tax Credit and the household income (as used by HMRC to assess tax credits) is not more that £16,190. Please note: anyone eligible for Working Tax Credit, or if you have a partner and they receive it, regardless of Income, you will not qualify

  • The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit

  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

  • In receipt of the 4 week run on of working tax credit (this is where someone becomes unemployed or reduces their hours and so is no longer entitled to working tax credit but will continue to receive it for a further 4 weeks and is entitled to free meals during that time) 

  • Universal credit (provided you have an annual net earned household income of no more than £7,400 as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods). Your net earned income is your household income after taxes and deductions and does not include income from Universal Credit or any other benefits you may receive.

If a child is already registered for and receiving free school meals you do not need to make a new claim as a result of this change. In fact, any pupil who has a live free school meal as at 1 April 2018 under the old criteria, or makes a successful new claim after 1 April 2018 under the new criteria will keep their free school meals until the government have completed their roll out of universal credit (expected to be March 2022), even if you no longer meet the entitlement criteria. At March 2022 if the pupil is still a school they will then keep their free school meals until they move to the next phase of education. We will write to parents at that time to advise them what to do.

However, because of the changes it does mean that whilst one child may be entitled under the old criteria and their free school are being protected, an application for another child after the 1 April may be refused. This could mean that one child will receive free school meals and the other won't.  If you are unsure please contact the free school meals team.

To prevent a delay in your claim, please don't apply before either:

  • Your eligiblity to working tax credit has ended but you are still receiving child tax credit and have a household income (as used by HMRC to assess tax credits) of less than £16,190, or receive one of the qualifying benefits listed above or;
  • Your claim for a qualifying benefit has been accepted and the start date for the benefit has passed or;
  • You have received your benefit or tax award notice showing that you meet the eligibility criteria
  • your entitlement to Universal Credit has been confirmed

Please note we are unable to backdate a claim for entitlement to free school meals to cover unpaid money or refund money paid prior to the start date of a successful application.

Please note that children being fostered are not normally eligible to claim free school meals as the fostering allowance paid is intended to cover the cost of the provision of meals for the child.

If your child has a finalised Education, Health and Care Plan and is registered as a pupil at a special school they can receive free school meals at nursery age - if you are not sure if have a finalised plan or if they are registered at the school (and not at some other nursery provision on site) please check with the school before making your application for free school meals.

Infant age pupils

From September 2014, if you have an infant age child (those in Reception, year 1 or year 2) they can receive free school meals even if you don't meet the entitlement criteria listed above and without completing our application form. However for every pupil registered with the council as eligbile under the entitlement criteria, the school will receive additional funding called Pupil Premium which is used to help raise achievement levels. Each school will decide how to spend the funding and are required to publish how they spent it and what impact it has had. So that schools (and pupils) can continue to benefit from this extra funding it is important that parents who do meet the criteria continue to register a claim with the council if they meet the entitlement criteria above.  


If your child is moving from one Staffordshire school to another you wouldn't generally need to re-apply but please check with the school you are moving to.


We don't always need to see proof of which benefit you are on in order to process your application. We can now check to see if you are entitled by using the National Free School Meals Eligibility Checking Service.

To use this service and process your claim, we need your National Insurance number (or national asylum support service number) and your own date of birth. Please note: By applying you are agreeing to allow us to check this service and to make regular ongoing checks to confirm entitlement.

If our check shows that you are not entitled we will ask for recent, written proof of benefit. Suitable written proof includes  a recent letter from the Benefits Agency giving details of the claim, your Pension Credit M1000 Award Notice, all pages of your TC602 Tax Credit award notice, a letter from the National Asylum Support Office confirming you are receiving support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 or copies of the 3 most recent Universal Credit statements or entitlement letters (if you have been on Universal Credit less than 3 months please provide copies of the all the statements or entitlement letters you have received so far). Your statements are obtained by you from your online Universal Credit account. If you don't have an online Universal Credit account, to request copies of your entitlement letters please contact the Department for Work and Pensions or your Jobcentre Plus office.


If you wish to apply for free school meals for any of the following schools, you will need to contact them directly as they do not use the County Council to deal with free school meal entitlement:

  • All Saints C of E Primary School, Trysull

  • Birds Bush Primary School

  • Blackfriars FE (now known as Newfriars)

  • Burton Fields School

  • Cannock Chase High School

  • Chase View Primary School

  • Cheslyn Hay Primary School

  • Chesterton Primary School

  • Eton Park Junior School

  • Forest Hills Primary School, Rugeley

  • Grange School

  • Horninglow Primary School

  • John of Rolleston Primary School

  • Lansdowne Academy

  • Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy

  • Outwoods Primary School

  • Paulet High School

  • Redbrook Hayes Primary School

  • Richard Wakefield Primary School

  • Rocklands School

  • Seabridge Primary School

  • St Benedict Biscop Primary School

  • St John the Evangelist Catholic Academy

  • William Shrewsbury Primary School

  • Willows Primary School, Lichfield

For all other Staffordshire state schools (including academies) applications should be made through Staffordshire County Council

Remember: you can only claim free school meals if your child is going to be in Reception year or above when the meals begin. 


Please note you should only complete an application if you wish to apply for free school meals because you meet the low income criteria. If you simply wish to obtain free school meals from September 2014 under the new universal infant free school meals criteria which provides free meals to all reception, year 1 and 2 children, do not complete this form but contact your school directly.

The information you provide will be used to determine initial and ongoing entitlement to make an application for free school meals for the child(ren) named on the application form and for any other siblings who join Stafforshire schools at a later date.

Please note that children being fostered are not normally eligible to claim free school meals as the fostering allowance paid is intended to cover the cost of the provision of meals for the child.

Please note there are some Staffordshire schools that do not use our service and so you will need to contact the school directly. To check which schools please see the previous question 'Do you deal with applications for all Staffordshire schools?'

Apply online

Before you apply please check that you meet the entitlement criteria. The quickest and easiest way to claim is applying online. It takes just a few minutes, you will get an instant yes or no answer and if you are entitled you can print the confirmation to give to your school to start the free meals immediately.



If your child is of secondary school age, and you are claiming free school meals or are in receipt of the maximum level of Working Tax Credit you may be able to get help with the cost of school transport. More information and guidance on how to apply can be found in the County Council's School Transport Policy.

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