Free School Meals

The eligibility criteria for free school meals has been changed from 1 April 2018. 


Changes to free school meals eligibility

The eligibility criteria for free school meals has been changed from 1 April 2018. The Government has made amendments to the eligibility criteria to reflect the introduction of Universal Credit.  The rollout of Universal Credit in Northumberland is scheduled for Autumn 2018.
 

Who is eligible for free school meals?

Free school meals are available to pupils 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 Job Seekers 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

 

What do these change mean?

Most people won’t be affected by the new criteria.  If you’re currently claiming free school meals, but don’t meet the new criteria, your child will continue to receive free school meals until the end of the Universal Credit rollout period.

Any pupil who gains eligibility for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will continue to receive free school meals during the Universal Credit rollout period.

This will apply even if your earnings rise above the new threshold or if you stop being entitled to any of the qualifying benefits.  The rollout period is current scheduled to end in March 2022.

Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, your child will keep their free school meal until the end of their current phase of education, i.e. primary to secondary.

 

I don’t currently claim free school meals

If you think you might be eligible for free school meals you can complete the online application formor you can telephone us on 01670 623592.  The information you provide will be used to check if you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

If you are eligible, your school will be notified.  Your child will receive free school meals and the school will receive extra funding.

An application cannot be made retrospectively as the process is a set criterion and there is no appeals process.

Children who receive income support, or income-based jobseekers' allowance in their own right are also entitled to claim free meals under the same application process.

If a child attends school, or the parent/guardian resides, in Northumberland the applicant can apply to Northumberland authority for free school meals.

Refunds for free school meals are only made in exceptional circumstances. These are handled on an individual basis by the school.

 

Where can I get more information?

If you need any further information please contact us on 01670 623592

 

How can I apply?

Paper applications can be returned upon completion to:

Free School Meals Office
Northumberland County Council
Wansbeck Square
Ashington
NE63 9XL

Benefit details for applications can be checked on receipt. However, if confirmation cannot be found, you will be contacted to provide proof of benefit.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

How long will the process take?

Applications are processed as quickly as possible however, at peak times forms are dealt with in order of date received, therefore the timing for a response to an application depends on the volume of forms waiting to be processing.

If the application is received before lunch the meals will be started from that day. If the application received after lunch, the meals will be started the following day. The school will be notified of your entitlement immediately by telephone or email. If applications are handed in to the school, and confirmation of benefit has been received the school can start the meals immediately.

How often do I apply?

Approved meals will run the whole of a child’s school life unless there is a change in circumstances. However all current claims for free school meals are reviewed monthly and applications will be automatically extended if we receive confirmation of benefit using our electronic system.

If your benefit results come back as ‘not found’, a letter will be sent out to you giving you two weeks to contact us or your entitlement will be cancelled.

Further proof of benefit would be required in order for the school meals to continue.

 

What if my circumstances change?

Schools and the FSM office should be notified immediately of any changes:

If you start work and your benefit changes/stops

  • If you change address
  • If your child changes school
  • If you change your name

Failure to notify us of a change of circumstance may affect your child's entitlement to free school meals. If your child receives free meals when they are no longer eligible, you will be required to reimburse the school any monies owed.

If you have not informed us of a change of address or you do not renew your award, your entitlement will be cancelled. You will be responsible for the payment of any meals taken and meals will not be backdated. It is your responsibility to keep us informed.

Adding a sibling to an existing claim

To add a new child to an existing claim, contact the FSM office quoting:-

  • the child's name
  • Date of Birth
  • school they will be attending
  • older siblings details

What if my child is excluded from school?

If your child has been excluded from school and is placed in an Alternative Provision, the entitlement to free school meals may be cancelled. This would be because the establishment may not have the provision to provide school meals and you may have to supply your child with a packed lunch. Please check with your child's Alternative Provision provider.

Can I claim anything else for my child?

The approval of a FSM application would entitle a child to:-

  • Free milk - in First or Special school milk at break-time will be free for the time the child is entitled to free school meals. The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for the free milk.
  • Help with music tuition and instruments - Parents can claim a refund of £3.00 per session from the costs when 7 of the 10 classes have be attended by the student. The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for this service.
  • Help with curriculum related residential trips or school visits - The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for this service.