If your child is entitled to free school meals it could save your family £370 per child per year. Fruit

Free school meals guarantee that your child will get a hot, nutritious meal at lunch time to keep them going until home time; and may also mean that you can get help to pay for school activities, such as music lessons and school trips. 

More information about school lunch menus and food standards can be found here.

Is my child eligible for free school meals?

If your child is in school on a full-time basis (including those in sixth-form or children at nursery for a full day) they may be entitled to free school meals. In order to be eligible, you need to receive one of the following qualifying benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re 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 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

Please note your child is not entitled to free school meals if you receive any Working Tax Credit. 

If you are a young person who receives income support or income based jobseeker's allowance in your own right, you are also entitled to receive free school meals.

Please note that children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are now automatically entitled to a free meal called a Universal Infant Free School Meal. You will need to register with your child's school in order for your child to get the free meal.

How do I apply for free school meals?

It's easy.  Apply online for free school meals

  • The person receiving the benefit should complete the application.
  • Enter your details carefully as any mis-spellings will mean we cannot check your details.
  • You should apply to the local authority where your children go to school.
  • If you have a child starting school for the first time and you already receive free school meals for other children, you will need to complete a new application for the additional child.
  • You do not need to re-apply annually if your child already receives free school meals.  Your claim will continue until your child leaves school unless you have a change in circumstances.

What happens next?

We will check your benefits eligibility using an online checking system provided by the Department for Education. This system links with your benefit provider and confirms whether or not you are eligible for free school meals. It does not provide us with any other information. 

Applications are processed within 5 to 10 working days, or sooner in quieter periods. We will write to tell you the outcome of your application and what date your child's free school meals will start. We will also let the school know. 

Sometimes we may need to contact you to provide more information before we can make a decision on whether or not your child is eligible.  In these circumstances we will ask you to provide additional proof of benefit because we have been unable to confirm through the online check that you receive one of the qualifying benefits.  In most cases, errors are due to the wrong details being supplied, such as mis-spellings of National Insurance numbers or the wrong date of birth. Please enter these details carefully.

Your child's entitlement will then automatically continue until they turn 19 or leave a Newcastle school, or until your financial circumstances change. If your child moves schools within the city, their eligibility will transfer with them to their new school.

Audits and changes of circumstances

You must let us know immediately about any change of circumstance by contacting us at the email or postal address below.  If your benefits stop, your child's free school meal entitlement will end on the same date. If this means that your child has been receiving free meals when they were no longer eligible, you may be required to pay the school back.

We also check all free school meals recipients on a regular basis to make sure they are still eligible. If you receive a letter stating that we believe you are no longer eligible, this is likely to be because your circumstances and/or qualifying benefits have changed. Your child's entitlement to free school meals will stop on the date mentioned in the letter and you will have to start to pay for meals at their school.  If you think your child is still eligible following an audit, you will need to reapply.

Frequently asked questions about free school meals

Why do you ask for my relationship to the child?

If the relationship of the applicant to the child is anything other than mother or father we will ask for evidence to show that the child lives in the household and the applicant receives benefits on behalf of them. If further evidence is required we will contact you directly.

If I am asked to provide proof of benefit, what should I supply?

  • If you receive Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and Income-related Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) please provide a copy of a recent Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Jobcentre letter granting the benefit. This must be dated within 28 days of the application.
  • If you receive Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit - please supply a copy of your most recent HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credit award notice (TC602).

We will also accept photocopies signed and stamped as seen by a member of school staff and returned to us via the schools' post system.

What if I don't have any of these forms of proof?

Without proof that you are entitled to one of the qualifying benefits, we will not be able to process your application. If you do not have the necessary proof of benefit, please contact the relevant office to request it.

How will you use the personal information I give you?

Any personal information you supply will be processed only in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The information you supply will be used to process your application for Free School Meals and will be shared with the Department of Work and Pensions for the purpose of assessing your eligibility.

Universal Infant Free School Meals

Good food and good food culture has been shown to lead not only to healthier, happier and more fulfilled children, but to improved educational attainment. Evidence from areas that provide universal free school meals is that children eat more healthily and perform better academically. Schools have also reported improved behaviour and atmosphere as a result of all pupils eating together every day.

The government has therefore decided that all infant pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 should be offered a universal infant free school meal.

We believe that the school lunchtime is a great opportunity for all children to sit down together and enjoy their healthy and tasty meal, while developing their social skills. We therefore hope that all parents will take up the free offer.  You will need to register with your child's school in order for your child to get the free meal.

We ask that all parents of pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 register their child for Universal Infant Free School Meals.  This is important so that schools can continue to attract Pupil Premium, which is worth up to £1,300 a year per eligible pupil.

Help and support

  • Phone us on 0191 278 7878 if you have any questions. Ask for "Free school meals"
  • Email: admissions.information@newcastle.gov.uk   
  • Write to us at: Newcastle City Council, Admissions and Information Service, Room 225, Barras Bridge, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH

Other information



Page last updated: 27 August, 2015