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Years 3 and above

Some councils may provide free school meals universally for children in all primary school years, so the local policy should be checked in the first instance. Search for a council’s policy.

When a council does not universally provide free school meals to children in school year 3 or above, then free school meals are usually only available to children who meet government eligibility criteria.

Free school meals can also be provided to an eligible child in full-time education who is younger than the compulsory school age.

Standard eligibility criteria

A child will be entitled to free school meals when their parent is receiving a qualifying benefit or if the child is receiving a qualifying benefit in their own right.

The qualifying benefits are:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • The guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (where the family has an annual income less than £16,190 and the parent is not entitled to Working Tax Credit)
  • Working Tax Credit four week run-on (paid when this benefit stops)
  • Universal Credit (where the family's net annual earned income must not exceed £7,400)
  • Support provided by the Home Office under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (section 95 or section 98 asylum support)

See also the government information about the standard eligibility criteria.

Children in households with no recourse to public funds

The Government has permanently extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds, subject to maximum income thresholds for families that are able to work.

The government guidance, Providing free school meals to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), states that 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 BN(O) passport
  • Spousal visa holders
  • Work visa holders
  • Student visa holders
  • Those with no immigration status

This is not a comprehensive list of all types of immigration status that are subject to a no recourse to public funds condition, so there will be families with other types of visas who also qualify for free school meals. 

When parents are able to work, a family with no recourse to public funds must also meet a maximum income threshold. The maximum income threshold will depend on how many children are in the household and where they are living:

  • £22,700 per annum for families outside London with one child
  • £31,200 per annum for families within London with one child
  • £26,300 per annum for families outside London with two or more children
  • £34,800 per annum for families within London with two or more children 

Families must also meet a savings threshold of £16,000. This is not referred to in the government guidance but was confirmed in a written statement to Parliament

The income threshold should not be applied to a family without any current immigration permission as they will be unable to legally work.  

An application for free school meals for a child in a household with no recourse to public funds will need to be made to the child's school. The school will assess and process the application in line with the government guidance.

All children in receipt of free school meals will attract pupil premium funding for their school. Schools will need to refer to the Government's No recourse to public funds: claim form guidance.

A child receiving free school meals will also be able to receive free home to school transport if they qualify for this.