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Pension Credit and free school meals

Children whose parents, carers or guardians receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit are entitled to free school meals or milk where it's provided. The education department of your local authority must provide free school meals to eligible students where requested.

Who is eligible?

Free school meals only apply in England and Wales (although provision can vary). The free school meals scheme in England and Wales is usually administered by the education department of your local authority or governing bodies in your local area.

Free school meals in Scotland are at the discretion of the Scottish Government. The criteria for free school meals in Scotland can be found on the Scottish Government website.

If you live in England or Wales you can get free school meals for your child if you or your partner get one of the following:

  • 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 State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue & Customs) that does not exceed £16,040

Parents receiving Working Tax Credit for four weeks after their employment finishes are entitled to free school meals during that period.  This also applies to parents who start working less than 16 hours per week.
Children who receive Income Support or income-based Job Seeker's Allowance in their own right qualify as well. All pupils who do not qualify for free school lunches must be charged the same amount for the same quantity of the same item.

Free school meals and a healthy diet

All food provided by the education department of your local authority must meet national nutritional standards. These standards ensure children are provided with a healthy, balanced diet.

What age must my child be to receive free school meals?

Free meals are available to any full-time student who is still at school and eligible. This includes nursery children who attend full days and also sixth form students. Meals are not available for students at further education level.

How to apply

To apply for free school meals, you usually need to complete the free school meal application form from the education department of your local authority and return it with the relevant proof either to one of the schools your child or children attend or to the address on the form. Individual local authorities need to be satisfied that the applicant meets the qualifying conditions.

If you receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit, you will be asked to produce proof of your entitlement. This may be your 'Pension Credit M1000 Award' notice, a letter from The Pension Service or a photocopy of the decision letter.

Apply for free school meals

The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more.

Free milk

Any child who is under the age of five is entitled to free milk tokens if you receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit.

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Additional links

Cold Weather Payment

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for a Cold Weather Payment

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