Pension Credit and free school meals
Children whose parents, carers or guardians receive certain benefits are entitled to free school meals or milk where it's provided. Your local education and library board or other school authority must provide free school meals to eligible students where requested.
Who is eligible?
You can get free school meals for your child if you or your partner gets either:
- 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 Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue & Customs) that does not exceed £16,190
- Working Tax Credit 'run-on' – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit, provided they have an annual income of less than £16,190 and the pupil attends a nursery or primary school*
- their child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or he, or she, is a boarder at a special school
Children who receive Income Support, income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance in their own right qualify as well. All pupils who do not qualify for free school lunches must be charged the same amount for the same quantity of the same item.
*This criteria was introduced on a phased basis from September 2010. Those eligible from September 2010 were full-time nursery pupils, Foundation Stage pupils and Key Stage 1 pupils in primary schools and those of equivalent age in special schools. Key Stage 2 pupils became eligible from September 2011.
Free school meals
The free school meals scheme is administered by your local education and library board. To apply for free school meals, you should contact your local education board for information about application procedures.
All food provided by the school must meet certain nutritional standards. These standards ensure children are provided with a healthy, balanced diet.
What age must my child be to receive free school meals?
Free meals are available to any full-time student who is still at school and eligible. This includes nursery children who attend full days and also sixth form students.
Any child who is under the age of five is entitled to free milk tokens if you receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit.
- Free milk, vitamins, fruit and vegetables and infant formula (health and well-being section)
- Healthy eating for children (health and well-being section)
More useful links
- Child benefit (money, tax and benefits section)
- 'Lets talk money' on the ageNI website