Free School Meals

Free School Meals (FSM) are available to people who are classed as unemployed and receiving a qualifying benefit. However they are not available automatically.

The parent, guardian or student needs to complete an application and return it to the school or the FSM office at County Hall. An application cannot be made retrospectively, the FSM process is a set criteria and there is no appeals process.

Children who receive Income Support(IS) or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (IBJSA) 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.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You can apply either by:

  • Apply for FREE school meal online

  • over the telephone on FSM 01670 623592
  • completing a paper application form which is available from any school or FSM Office Northumberland County Council County Hall Morpeth NE61 2EF

Paper forms can be returned to the school or The FSM office. Benefit details for applications can be checked by us on receipt of the information although on some occasions the confirmation may not be found and you will be contacted with a request to provide your proof of benefit.


To apply online for Free School Meals click here


Frequently Asked Questions 

What do I need to qualify?

To be eligible for help you need to be in one of the following categories:

  • Receive Income Support(IS) or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (IBJSA).
  • Receive Income Related Employment Allowance (IREA).
  • Have an entitlement to Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit (WTC) and the family's annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is not more than £16,190 for tax year 2012/2013(this figure changes on an annual basis).
  • Receive support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • Receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit.

What if I receive Working Tax Credit?

You will not be entitled to Free School Meals if you, or your partner, receive any Working Tax Credit on a regular basis.

However, where a parent is entitled to 'Working Tax Credit Run On' during the four week period immediately after their employment ceases, or after they start to work less than 16 hours per week, their children are entitled to Free School Meals.

We are unable to directly confirm this 4 week period of eligibility via our electronic system, so we must ask parents to provide a copy of their Tax Credit decision notice.

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.

When would I not be eligible?

You are not eligible if you are in one or more of the following categories:

  • Part time pupils (children at nursery) are not entitled to free school meals. To qualify children must be receiving education before and after the lunch period.
  • Pupils whose parents receive other state benefits but not those mentioned above.
  • Pupils whose parents receive Working Tax Credit on a regular basis.
  • Pupils who are in foster care, if a child is fostered the Carer will be receiving an allowance which covers all costs for the child, including meals at home and school.

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.