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
- In addition to the thresholds mentioned above, families must hold no more than £16,000 in capital and savings.
Families who wish to apply under this criteria will need to complete a different application form and provide supporting evidence.