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 (benefits-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.

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?

Any pupil who was FSM eligible on 1 April 2018, or who has become eligible under the benefits/low-earnings criteria since then, will continue to receive free meals, even if their household income exceeds the eligibility threshold, up until March 2025 and then until the end of their phase of education (ie primary or secondary).

Please notify us or your child’s school if your support under the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 or the guarantee element of Pension Credit has ended or if you no longer qualify for free school meals under the criteria for families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

Why have my free school meals been 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 during March 2025 but the subsequent application for siblings will not be approved or protected.