Shropshire Council


What are universal free school meals and how do I apply for them?

All children in key stage 1 (reception class, year 1 and year 2) are automatically entitled to have a free school meal (UIFSM). You don't have to apply for universal infant free school meals, you don't need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit, and receipt of working tax credits doesn't affect your eligibility. However in order for your child's school to recognise who is eligible for universal infant free school meals, and who qualifies for government (benefit related) free school meals for funding purposes, we encourage all parents who meet the eligibility criteria for government free school meals to apply.

Who can claim government free school meals?

Generally, parents or carers who don't work, or who work fewer than 16 hours a week, are eligible to claim free school meals, as are students under the age of 19 who claim a qualifying benefit in their own right.

I receive working tax credit

You're not entitled to free school meals. Working tax credit is extra financial support claimed via HM Revenue and Customs for people working 16 hours or more a week but earning a low wage. The amount paid is based on your personal circumstances. This extra financial support means that you're not entitled to free school meals.

I qualify for free school meals, but the school will know about my financial situation if I apply. Can I apply without the school knowing how much I receive in benefits?

The arrangements for checking benefit evidence don't disclose how much you receive, or even which benefit you receive.

Previously, I had to reapply for free school meals each year - has this changed?

Yes. We can now re-use the information provided in your original application to make repeat automatic checks. This removes the need for you to keep reapplying.

I have just lost/given up my job - can I claim free school meals?

To be eligible to claim free school meals you have to be in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits.

Where a parent is entitled to working tax credit during the four-week period immediately after their employment stops, or after they start to work fewer than 16 hours a week, their children will be entitled to free school meals. This is to cover the interim period before your benefit starts. Proof of this will be required.

I'm not sure whether I qualify for free school meals

If you have any doubt as to whether you can claim free school meals, please call our Customer Services Team on 0345 678 9008 for helpful advice.

What do I do if my free school meal benefit stops?

Anyone who has been or become eligible for free school meals since 1 April 2018 will remain eligible throughout the universal credit rollout period, which is scheduled to continue until March 2023. This will apply even if your earnings increase above the threshold or you cease to claim an eligible benefit during that time. After the rollout period ends, if you no longer meet the eligibility criteria your child will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (ie primary or secondary).

Why have my free school meals been cancelled?

During the free school meals protection period claims won't be cancelled. If there is a problem with your entitlement, please call our Customer Services Team on 0345 678 9008, who will be happy to help and advise you.

My children go to different schools - should I complete a separate application form for free school meals for each child?

The award is made for the family/household. You can include all your children on one form, so long as they all attend schools in Shropshire. Shropshire parents whose children attend schools in another local authority area should contact that authority for the award of free school meals.

My child has just started school and already has brothers and sisters who get free school meals - do I need to reapply?

Yes. You need to submit an application for the new child.

My eldest child’s free school meals are protected during the roll out of Universal Credit, will this protection cover future applications for siblings?

Protection is exclusive to the child that is protected and will not automatically cover the whole family. In order for a sibling to be protected the parent/carer will have to meet the free school meals eligibility criteria at the time of the new application/s for the siblings. If you don't meet the free school meals criteria at that time, the protected child will remain entitled until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in at the end of summer 2023 but the subsequent application for siblings will not be approved or protected.