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Families in Dorset encouraged to check if they qualify for free school meals

With the coronavirus pandemic having a huge effect on employment, it is expected that more families will be eligible to claim for free school meals. The scheme is a vital lifeline for many families across the county and as more people are claiming Universal Credit.

Free school meals are available to children whose parents or carers receive financial support such as:

• 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 guaranteed element of Pension Credit

• Child Tax Credit; this is as long as you’re not entitled to Working Tax Credit and your annual gross income is no more than £16,190

• Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ payment (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

• Universal Credit: this is as long as your household income is less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

All children in Reception and Years 1 and 2 qualify for free school meals, regardless of their family income.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “I urge all families whose financial circumstances have been affected by the pandemic to check if they are eligible for the scheme. It’s vital that children are fed and that they continue to eat healthily.

“We know that many people are having to deal with very challenging circumstances and the council is determined to reduce the stresses and pressures on hard-pressed people in our region.”

If a child is eligible for free school meals, they remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling they’re in on 31 March 2022.

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