School meals and food vouchers during the Coronavirus crisis

There has been lots of publicity about the various schemes that have been introduced to help people cope during the current crisis – for example, help for furloughed workers, the self-employed and for people who claim benefits. One area that has received less attention, and is potentially a very important one for parents and carers with school age children, is the arrangement for free school meals for State school pupils under the government's scheme in England.

Family Rights Group has put together this guide to answer some of the questions we’ve been asked by families. We hope you will find it useful.

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Who is a vulnerable child?

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans. Children who have a social worker include children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority.

The Department of Education expect that vulnerable children who have a social worker will still attend school, so long as they don’t have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk than others.

Those with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by the school, in consultation with the local authority and parents, to decide whether they need to continue to be offered a school/college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.


What counts as a low-income?

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit - if you apply for free school meals on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get). If you sucessfully applied for free school meals on UC grounds before that date, you remain entitled

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

Your child may also get free school meals if you get any of these benefits and your child is both:

If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2022.

Your child will also be able to get free school meals if they’re in a government-funded school and in:

  • Reception class
  • Year 1
  • Year 2

Tell your local authority if you also get any of the qualifying benefits. Your child’s school can get extra funding if you do.


This advice was published 21 April 2020

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