11/04/2024 - Permalink

Don’t miss out on free school meals for your child

Related topics: Children's services

Shropshire Council is launching a campaign to encourage parents and carers in Shropshire who are eligible for free school meals to take up the offer for their children.

The campaign aims to reach out to families who may not realise they qualify for free school meals, or who may feel reluctant to apply.

Free school meals are available to pupils who attend maintained schools, academies and free schools, who are in receipt of, or whose parents or carers receive, certain benefits. A full list of eligibility criteria can be found on the council’s website at Are you eligible for free school meals? | Shropshire Council.

The council is urging parents and carers in Shropshire who are eligible for free school meals to apply for the scheme and ensure their children receive the support to which they are entitled.

Three children sharing a free school meal

Free school meals

All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are automatically entitled to have a free school meal, regardless of their family income through universal infant free school meals. However, some children in these year groups may also be eligible for benefits-related free school meals, which can bring additional benefits for the school as well as ensuring that the child has access to free school meals from the start of Year 3.

Free school meals can save families more than £448 a year per child, and provide children with healthy and nutritious meals that can boost their learning and wellbeing. They can also help families with the rising cost of living, especially during these challenging times.

Like with many councils across the UK, Shropshire Council is facing unprecedented financial challenges. Funding for schools and free school meals come direct from the Government, and therefore does not impact on the council’s need to further reduce its costs.

Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children and education, said:-

“We want to make sure that every child in Shropshire who is eligible for free school meals takes up this offer.

“We understand that some families struggle with the cost of school meals, and seeking support can often feel overwhelming, as well as maybe having a stigma attached to it. We want to reassure families to try and not to feel this way and to seek support.

“As well as health and wellbeing benefits of having school meals, free school meals have an important role to play in helping ease the pressures on family budgets.”

Roger Evans, Leader of the Liberal Democrats group, who put forward a motion at Full Council on Thursday 14 December 2023 to raise the profile of free school meals, added:-

“I’m delighted that Shropshire Council is launching this campaign to encourage more families to apply for free school meals. This is a cross-party initiative that shows our commitment to supporting our most vulnerable children and young people. Free school meals can also benefit schools, as they receive extra funding from the Government for each eligible child.

“This funding, known as the pupil premium, can be used to provide additional support and resources for pupils’ learning and development.”

Parents and carers who apply for free school meals do not have to take up the offer if they prefer their child to have a packed lunch. However, a free school meal for one child could save you a significant amount of money a year, which you could put towards other family costs.

To find out more and to apply for free school meals, visit Free school meals | Shropshire Council

If parents/carers have existing claims in place for benefits-related free school meals, they do not need to reapply. They only need to apply if they don’t have an existing claim in place for their child. 

Further information

Free school meals are available to pupils who attend maintained schools, academies and free schools, who are in receipt of, or whose parents are in receipt of, one or more of the following benefits:-

  • 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)
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of pension credit
  • Child tax credit (provided you are not also entitled to working tax credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working tax credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for working tax credit.

The Department for Education has permanently extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds, subject to maximum income thresholds. Further information regarding eligible groups and income thresholds can be found on gov.UK website