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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
The general low income entitlement criteria is -
- Income Support
- Income Based Job Seekers Allowance. Please note the ‘new style’ job seekers allowance is not a qualifying benefit, as this is based upon payment of National Insurance contributions and not the household income
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance. Please note the ‘new style’ employment and support allowance is not a qualifying benefit, as this is based upon payment of National Insurance contributions and not the household income
- 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.
To make an application under any of these criteria please use our online application form
To prevent a delay in your claim, please don't apply before either:
- Your eligibility 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.
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.
Additional criteria from April 2022 for families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)
- Zambrano carers
- families who have no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction
- a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Chen carers
- families holding a BN(O) passport
- spousal visa holders
- work visa holders
- student visa holders
- those with no immigration status
- For all these groups the annual household income must be below £22,700 for a family with one child and below £26,300 for a family with 2 or more children
Families who wish to apply under this criteria will need to complete a different application form and provide supporting evidence.
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 under the no recourse to public funds criteria, a different application form is needed which will need additional supporting information
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
- Gnosall St Lawrence Primary Academy
- Grange School
- Haughton St Giles Primary Academy
- 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
- The de Ferrers Academy
- William Shrewsbury Primary School
- Willows Primary School, Lichfield
- Woodseaves Primary Academy
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?'
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 you wish to apply under the no recourse to public funds criteria a different application form applies
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.