Free School Meals
Whether your child is starting school for the first time in September or if you already have children on roll at school, you may not be aware whether you are entitled to claim Free School Meals.
By registering your child for Free School Meals means the school receives additional funds (called pupil premium) which can assist with purchasing additional resources to aid achievement.
Registering your child is confidential and it will not affect any other benefits you are claiming.
Can my children have free school meals?
Yes, if you live in Lancashire and receive:
- Universal Credit with a household income of less than £7,400 or Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based)
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit but you are not entitled to a Working Tax Credit and your annual income does not exceed £16,190
- Support under part VI of the Immigration Asylum Act 1999
- Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit 'run on' – the payment you receive for a further four weeks after you finish work
Please note: free school meals cannot be granted on a discretionary basis.
How do I apply for free school meals?
To apply, one option is to contact your Area Education Office by phone on 01772 531 809. If you provide them with your name, date of birth and national insurance number they can immediately check your entitlement via the DfE Electronic Free School Meals Checking Service.
Alternatively, you can complete an application form. These are available from your child’s school, your local Area Education Office or downloadable from this site (see below).
You may also now apply online for free school meals direct with Lancashire County Council. Please click here to do this.
If you think that you are entitled, then complete the form and send it to the local Area Education Office:
South Ribble Education Office
Address and contact details, including phone numbers, can be accessed directly from their page:
South Area Education Office (Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire)
Proof of benefit
The council checks your entitlement for your children’s free school meals via the Government’s benefits database. The check will only identify whether you are entitled or not.
If the check indicates that you are not entitled, this does not mean that your children are not automatically entitled to free school meals.
If you feel your children are still entitled to free school meals and you can provide proof of your entitlement then a manual assessment of your claim can be undertaken.
Proof of benefit can be demonstrated by:
- Income Support (proof required is sight of or copy of all pages of the letter from DWP/Job Centre Plus dated within one month of application showing breakdown of income support payment)
- Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance / Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (proof required is sight of or copy of all pages of the letter which shows breakdown of Jobseeker's Allowance / Employment Support Allowance dated within one month of application)
- Child Tax Credit (proof required is sight or copy of complete TC602 Inland Revenue tax credit award notice, for current tax year)
- Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit (proof required is sight of or copy of your Pension Credit M1000 Award Notice)
- Asylum Seekers (proof required is sight of or copy of NASS support notice or IS96 document including details of authority providing support under part IV of the Immigration and Asylum act 1999. You will be required to supply:
- NASS reference number
- port reference number
- name of authority
How often do I have to apply?
You should apply when you first start to receive benefit. Your eligibility will be reviewed on a regular basis. Your children will continue to receive free school meals unless you are notified otherwise. You therefore do not need to re-apply each year.
How will the school know my child does not have to pay for school meals?
The school will be notified directly by the council that your child/children can have a school meal free of charge. Each school makes its own arrangements for notifying the dinner service staff of who is to receive a free school meal.
What if my circumstances change?
You should contact your local area education office to advise them of any changes to your personal circumstances such as:
- if you start work and come off benefit
- if any of your personal details change
- if you change address
- if your child changes school
What happens if my child has to go on work experience?
If you get free meals and your child has to go on work experience, you will be able to claim a refund for any lunches you have provided. Ask for details from school.
Where can I get further information?
Please visit Lancashire County Council FSM Advice for up to date information.