Shropshire Council


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

All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 are entitled to a free school meal. You don't need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit, and receipt of working tax credits doesn't affect your eligibility for universal free school meals. You don't need to apply for your child to receive a universal free school meal, however it's of benefit to your child’s school if you do. We'd therefore encourage you to do this.

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?

Yes. 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.

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 9000 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 2022.  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 (i.e. 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 9000, 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 reapply so that the new child can be included in the family's current free school meals award. Don't worry if your child is in reception, and is currently only attending part time. The award can be put into place now, but will only become 'active' once the child attends school full time.