Under current regulations only children whose parents/guardians are in receipt of any of the following will be entitled to free school lunches:
- Universal Credit with an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400
- Income Support (IS)
- Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (IBJSA)
- An Income–related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- Child Tax Credit (with no Working Tax Credit) with an annual income of no more than £16,190
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of the State Pension Credit
- Where they are entitled to Child Tax Credit and also Working Tax Credit during the four week period immediately after their employment ceases, or after they start to work less than 16 hours per week, their children are entitled to free school meals*
No other entitlements (such as a NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate card, Foster Care allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit or a Certificate of Taxable Incapacity Benefit) are relevant for a claim.
The definition of “parent” is any person who has care of the child. So in a case of private fostering the child has potentially four parents – two natural ones and two foster parents, since the foster parents have care of the child. If a child is living with two parents/carers, the claim is based upon the benefits for the whole family. If parents are considered by Inland Revenue to be two separate families, then the claim is based upon the benefits of the parent who makes the claim. This is regardless of whether the other parent (even if it is the one the child lives with) is claiming working tax credit.
A parent can begin claiming free school meals from any age, but the child must be receiving education both before and after the lunchtime so, for example, nursery children attending only in the morning are not entitled to a free meal. There is nothing in the legislation to state that the education before or after the lunch period must last a particular minimum or maximum length of time. Children who attend nursery school for half a day but remain at the same school for childcare purposes the other half of the day are not entitled to receive free school meals.
All mainstream schools in Buckinghamshire have an obligation to provide Free School Meals to eligible children that attend full time. Parents apply directly to the school if they consider their child(ren) eligible to receive Free School Meals. Eligibility is judged against the benefits that the applying parent/carer is entitled to.
Free School Meal Application
An application form must be returned to the school by parents at the beginning of each academic year (or when they start school) together with documentary evidence to confirm the parents' entitlement. It is then the school's responsibility to arrange for the provision of a free school meal. Schools should keep application forms and evidence for audit purposes for six years after the pupil's entitlement ends.