Free school meals are available to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils and to children whose parents receive certain benefits.

You could save up to £450 a year with free school meals for your child. School meals can also save you time and provide peace of mind that your child is enjoying a healthy, fresh, and nutritious meal at lunchtime. 

Free school meals for all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils

All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are entitled to free school meals under the Universal Infant Free School Meal Scheme. You do not need to complete an application form, just get in touch with your school and they can arrange this for you.

Although this is not means-tested, if you do qualify for any financial support shown below, we would encourage you to complete our online form as this could enable your child's school to claim the Pupil Premium Funding to further support them.

Apply for free school meals

Free school meals for all years for pupils whose families receive financial support 

If you get certain benefits, your child could also qualify for free school meals during all school years. To qualify you must be receiving:

  • Universal Credit, provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods (£616.67 per month)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, provided you are also not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual household gross income that does not exceed £16,190 (as assessed by HMRC)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit

Please note that contributions-based benefits, including contribution-related Jobseekers' Allowance do not entitle you to claim free school meals.

Apply for free school meals

You will receive an instant decision on whether your application is successful. If it is, we will fully process the application in 5 working days and notify the school. Once the school have received this your child can begin enjoying free school meals. You should continue to pay until confirmation comes through. Schools may be able to arrange reimbursement of payment made while your entitlement is being confirmed.

Free school meals claims cannot be backdated. They are awarded from the date we receive the application, once eligibility is confirmed. This is because there is a legal requirement for a request to be made, before a free school meal can be provided. If you are not entitled to free school meals, you will be notified in writing.

No recourse to public funds (NRPF) and free school meals eligibility

The government have extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds, subject to maximum income thresholds.

These groups include, but may not be limited to children of:

  • Zambrano carers
  • families who have no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction
  • a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Chen carers
  • families holding a British National overseas passport
  • spousal visa holders
  • work visa holders
  • student visa holders
  • those with no immigration status

The maximum income threshold differs based on your location and the number of children that your family has.

Income thresholds

Under the permanent extension of free school meal eligibility to all No recourse to public funds groups, the annual household income thresholds for those families able to work are:

  • £22,700 for families outside of London with 1 child
  • £26,300 for families outside of London with 2 or more children

There is a different application form for families applying under this criteria, which includes a self-declaration that can be used for verifying eligibility. This is available from your child’s school.  

Your child’s school can help complete it if necessary.

Please note: the online application form should not be used for households in this category, as some families will not have a national insurance number. Those that do have a national insurance number, cannot be assessed for eligibility using the online Department of Education free school meals electronic checking system (ECS), as this only checks eligibility against an applicant’s benefits, which these families have no recourse to.

Confirming no recourse to public funds status

Please find below some examples of how you can demonstrate your no recourse to public funds status, this list is not exhaustive.

Article 8 of the ECHR

Families will be able to provide a letter from the Home Office granting them leave to remain in the UK or a biometric residence card.

Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Families will be able to provide a letter from the Home Office or local authority confirming Section 4 support or an ASPEN card.

British National overseas passport holders

Families will be able to show either a British National overseas passport or visa.

Spouse, work or student visa holders

Families will be able to show their visa.

Zambrano or Chen carers

In many (but not all) cases, the family will be able to show a derivative residence card. If they do not hold this, they must be able to show that:

  • the carer or parent is not a British citizen
  • the child is a British citizen
  • the carer is a direct relative or legal guardian of the child, and they have the primary responsibility for the child
  • there are no other members of the carers’ family in the UK or the EEA who could look after the child

Confirming your income

Families should complete a self-declaration of their income as part of their application.

To verify this, they will need to show one of the following:

  • payslip
  • P60
  • bank statement
  • letter from their bank
  • letter from their employer
  • letter from the local authority confirming support if applicable

Paid for school meals

If you do not qualify for free school meals you can still pay for excellent value school meals that ensure your child gets a nutritious and tasty meal. Find out more about what we offer on our school meals page.

Frequently asked questions

Nursery children are entitled to free meals if they meet all the following criteria:

  • their parents receive one of the qualifying benefits for free school meals
  • the child receives education before and after the lunch time period
  • the child is in a maintained nursery provision
  • the parents, or another responsible adult, have made a claim for a free meal

These criteria apply whether a child is attending funded or bought hours.

Post-16 students can receive free school meals.

If your child attends the sixth form in a North Yorkshire school, we will normally administer claims.

If your child attends a further education college you should apply for free school meals by contacting the college directly.

Although we would normally process application forms for all pupils attending local authority maintained schools, this is not always the case if a school becomes an academy.

Contact our welfare team on 01609 533405 for more information.