Two women serving food to a girl in a school cafeteria queue

Free school meals – here’s what you need to know

There’s a good chance we’ll be keeping a tighter rein on the pennies after Christmas, and free school meals could help with that.

In fact, it’s a good time to make sure we’re receiving all the benefits we’re entitled to.

Free school meals are worth around £440 a year per child.

In England, we may qualify if we get Universal Credit (and our income is less than £7,400 a year after tax and benefits) or other means-tested benefits.

We might also qualify if we receive any of those benefits and our child is under five but in full-time education.

And it’s worth remembering that if we’re claiming free school meals, we’ll be entitled to food (or vouchers) if our child is self-isolating at home due to Covid.

All children in England in the first three years of primary will get free school meals anyway, regardless of our income.

There’s good news for families in Scotland – as of this month all children in the first five years of school (primaries one to five) are now entitled to free school meals.

For older children, we’ll need to be receiving Universal Credit (and earn £625 or less a month) or other means-tested benefits.

In Wales, at the moment we need to be receiving certain benefits to qualify. But at the end of last year the Welsh Government announced that free school meals will be offered to all primary pupils within three years.

We can claim free school meals by contacting our council or asking at our child’s school.

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