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The Community Radio Station covering Central-Southern Dorset, run by volunteers and not-for-profit

Does your child qualify for free school meals?

Some children may be eligible to receive a free daily lunch at school, potentially saving families up to £450 per year, per child.  With the cost of living affecting many people, Dorset Council is reminding families under financial pressure to find out if their child qualifies for the initiative.

As well as receiving a healthy meal every school day, a child’s school will receive extra government funding (called the Pupil Premium) towards more teaching staff, tuition or activities. This could be between £1035 and £1455 per year.

Dorset children who receive free school meals can also take part in free activities during the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays.  Holiday food vouchers will also be provided for eligible pupils until at least March 2024.

Dorset Council provides a confidential checker so parents and carers can quickly see if they qualify. Schools do not see financial information about the families applying.

All pupils approved for free school meals will continue to be eligible until at least 31st March 2025 and after that until they finish the school phase they are in.

Cllr Byron Quayle, Portfolio Holder for Children, Education, Skills and Early Help, said: “With the challenging economic climate impacting many households, families are finding themselves under increasing financial pressure.

“Some children can qualify for free school meals and be provided with a daily nutritious lunch – which is important for your child’s health and wellbeing. If you receive qualifying benefits, please complete our quick and easy confidential checker to see if your child can receive a daily free school meal, as well as holiday activities and help your school to receive more funding.”

APPLY HERE

If you have any concerns, or questions you can also call 01305 221090.

Who can get free school meals

A child may be able to get free school meals if their parent or carer receives any 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 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)

Children who are paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or carer, can also get free school meals.

Free holiday activities

Nutritious food and healthy activities are vital for a child’s development, so an added benefit for children eligible for free school meals is the offer of free holiday clubs and activities. These take place during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays and include a free midday meal.

Parents/carers will need to register to receive a passcode to access the activities and meals. 

Holiday food vouchers

Free School Meal (FSM) holiday vouchers will be provided by the Household Support Fund until at least March 2024. Parents do not need to apply; schools and Early Years settings will issue vouchers for eligible children automatically.

About the government-funded pupil premium 

The pupil premium grant is government funding paid to schools to support children who may be vulnerable to underachievement. It is automatically paid to schools when a pupil is approved for free school meals.  Schools determine ways in which this funding should be effectively spent, such as supporting high quality teaching, targeted academic support, or wider strategies to improve educational outcomes for children.

Pupil premium for pupils in reception and years 1 and 2 

School children in reception, year 1 and year 2 automatically receive universal infant free school meals. However, parents/carers in receipt of qualifying benefits are encouraged to apply for free school meals when their child starts school.  This will secure additional support for eligible families, such as free holiday activities and food vouchers, as well as generating pupil premium funding for the school:Apply for free school meals.

Immigration and asylum seekers

Government has permanently extended free school meals eligibility to children with “no recourse to public funds”, who were previously not included because of their parents’ immigration status.  These children will also attract pupil premium funding for their school.

Image of children supplied by Dorset Council