The introduction of Universal Credit has changed the eligibility criteria for free school meals from April 2018.
What are the new eligibility criteria?
Children are entitled to receive free school meals if they or their parents or guardians receive any of the benefits below:
- Universal Credit, provided they have an annual net earned income not exceeding £7,400 (£616.67 per month)
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guarantee element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit, provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by HMRC
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
I am currently claiming free school meals – what does this mean for me?
Most people will not be affected by the new criteria. If you are currently claiming free school meals, but do not meet the new criteria, your child will continue to receive free school meals until the end of the Universal Credit rollout period. This will apply even if your earnings rise above the new threshold or if you stop being entitled to Universal Credit. The rollout period is currently scheduled to end in March 2022.
Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, your child will keep their free school meal until the end of their current phase of education, i.e. primary or secondary. It is very important to ensure you have re-registered now to maintain this free school meal benefit.