Frequently Asked Questions: Free School Meals/Uniform Grants

FAQs on free school meals and uniform grant to include applying and eligibility.

Free School Meals

Applying

How do I apply for free school meals?

Free School Meals/School Uniform/Physical Education Clothing applications for the 2022/23 school year can be made online. Visit our Apply for Free School Meals/Uniform Grant page for more information.  If you want to apply for the current school year ending on 30 June 2022, please contact the Helpdesk on 028 90418044 and ask for a paper application form.

 

What do I need to do when completing my application?

You will need to upload proof of your qualifying benefit with your online application.

If applying under Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit all pages of your Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) for the year 6/4/22 to 5/4/23 must be submitted with your completed application. Tax Credits Award Notices (TC602) before these dates cannot be accepted.

If you have not received your 6/4/22 to 5/4/23 Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) but have received a Tax Credits Annual Review Notice (TC603R) for the year ended April 2022 which states “Check now no later than 31/7/2022” then you can upload this with your application. Tax Credits Annual Review Notices (TC603R) which state “Reply now no later than 31/7/2022” cannot be accepted.

If you misplaced/lost your TC602/TC603R you must contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on their helpline 0345 300 3900 to request a replacement.

If you have not received a (TC602/TC603R) or replacement from HM Revenue and Customs by the end of July 2022 you can submit an application for consideration with a letter stating why a TC602/TC603R is not attached. This may delay your claim.

If you are applying under Universal Credit, you must attach all pages of your most recent Universal Credit Payments breakdown, which can be found by logging into your Universal Credit account and clicking on your most recent payment details where you will be shown the breakdown of all payments and deductions of how your Universal Credit has been calculated. This will ensure you provide us with all of the necessary information.

If you are applying under Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit you must submit your Proof of Benefit letter with your application which can be obtained by the following link https://secure.dwp.gov.uk/get-a-proof-of-benefit-letter/

What are my responsibilities as a Parent/Guardian?

You must:   

  • Check your e-mail inbox plus your spam/junk mail folders for replies from the Meals and Uniform Section as this is how we will inform you if your application has been approved/rejected or if you need to do anything further;
     
  • Submit to the Meals and Uniform Section a fully completed application including proof of your qualifying benefit. The child(ren) applied for must be in your actual custody, included in the payments for Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit and the name(s) must be entered as they appear on the Birth Certificate unless they have been legally changed; and
     
  • Notify the Meals and Uniform Section immediately of any changes in family circumstances or benefit entitlement.

What happens/how will I know if my application is not successful?

If your application is not successful/approved because you do not meet the criteria you will be sent an email and you can log into your account to view details of what you need to send us. In this case you must submit your application again and attach the correct information to the application. Check your spam/junk mail regularly in case the email was delivered there. It is your responsibility to resubmit your application promptly or your child/children may not have support in place for the start of the school year.

If I get a ‘More evidence/information required’ email, will Free School Meals be available for the start of the school year?

If you resubmitted your amended application in August, due to the large volume of applications, Free School Meals may not be available for the start of the school year.

What happens/how will I know if my application is successful?

If your application is successful you will be sent an e-mail confirming this. The Education Authority will inform schools each week of children eligible for Free School Meals.

What information do I need to have beside me before I apply?

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit/Working Tax Credit you need to have the correct proof of all pages of your most recent benefit document saved onto your phone or computer before you begin the application process.  If you are in receipt of Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit you must have your Proof of Benefit letter saved onto your phone or computer.

English is not my first language and I find it difficult to know what I have to do.

Please see our accessibility information to find out more about the Recite Me tool and how to use it. 

I am not very good with computers. Can I get any help with completing the application?

Please telephone our Helpdesk and one of our trained staff will be able to help you. 

How long will it take for my application to be processed?

If you have submitted the correct documentation it can take at least four weeks for your application to be processed during the months of May to October.  At other times of the year it should be processed within two weeks.

Eligibility

Can I apply if I am a student who receives benefit in my own name?

Yes. Complete an application in your own name.  Enter ‘Self-Claimant’ at “Relationship to Child(ren)” and enter your own name, date of birth and school in the section for child(ren).

Can I apply for free school meals if my child has a statement of Special Educational Needs and requires a special diet?

Yes. However, you can only apply using a paper application form which will need to be verified by your child’s Doctor/Dietician/Medical Professional. Please do not complete the online form. Please contact the Meals and Uniform Section to request the Special Diet Application Form.

If your child received free school meals under the Special Diet criterion during the 2021/22 school year you will be automatically sent a pre-populated application form for 2022/23 in June 2022 to complete and return.

Can I apply for free school meals if my child attends a Nursery School?

Yes, if your child is in full-time nursery school/nursery unit/reception class.

Children attending part-time nursery school/nursery unit/reception class are not eligible for free school meals.

Can I apply for free school meals if I have a fostered child in my care?

No. If you or the foster carer are in receipt of funding you are not eligible to make application for free school meals.

Can I apply for free school meals if my child is at an EOTAS Learning Centre or Educational Guidance Centre?

Yes. Enter your child’s main registered school on the application and e-mail mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk  or telephone 02890418044 to inform us of the EOTAS/Educational Guidance Centre where your child is attending.  Not all students may be eligible for a uniform allowance.

Can I apply for free school meals if my child attends a full-time course at a Regional College/FE College?

Yes. If eligible your child can be entitled only if he/she has not reached the age of 18 on or before 31 July and is not attending a paid training course.

Can I apply if my child is waiting for results and is unsure of what school he/she will attend in September?

Yes. Enter the name of the school he/she is most likely to attend and inform the Meals and Uniform Section by phone or in writing if this information changes.

Can I apply for free school meals if my child has reached 16 years of age on or before 1 July and is not attending a Regional College/FE College?

Yes. Free school meals will be processed. The Meals and Uniform Section will write to the school/college at the beginning of the new school year to confirm that your child is attending.

Can I apply for free school meals if my child attends full-time at an Independent School?

Yes, you can apply for free school meals if your child attends full-time at an Independent School.  However, your child will not be eligible for a uniform allowance. 

Can I apply if I am an Asylum Seeker?

Yes. You must attach evidence to show that you are supported by the Home Office Asylum Support Assessment Team (ASAT) or that you have applied for support.

Can I apply if I receive Universal Credit?

Yes. If you receive Universal Credit with net household earnings not exceeding £14,000 per year you are eligible to apply. You must attach all pages of your most recent Universal Credit Payments breakdown, which can be found by logging into your Universal Credit account at https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and clicking on your most recent payment details where you will be shown the breakdown of all payments and deductions of how your Universal Credit has been calculated. This will ensure you provide us with all of the necessary information with your application.

General

Can free school meals be backdated?

No. The Meals and Uniform Section requires parents to submit an application for free school meals in each school year. A free school meal (not money) is available directly to the child on each school day when that child is physically present at school within the relevant school year once the child has been awarded free school meals entitlement by the EA.  There is no financial assistance to parents either before entitlement is awarded or in lieu of free school meals. Therefore no back payments can be made.

Will I be notified if my children are entitled to free school meals?

Parents/guardians will receive an email advising them of entitlement. The school will also be informed.

I have registered and received an email telling me that my application was submitted but I haven’t been informed as to whether my application has been successful. What should I do?

You should log back into your account and check the progress of your application. You will be able to see if a decision has been made about your application (‘Approved’ or ‘Not Successful’). If your application has been approved, you will be able to click into it and see the start date for free school meals. If your application states ‘Returned’, this means that information or evidence was missing and we need you to submit the application again with this information/evidence.

If you applied more than four weeks ago and a decision has not been made about your application you should e-mail the Free School Meals and Uniform Helpdesk on mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk giving as much information as you can i.e. the name under which you applied, your National Insurance Number and the submission number you received when your application was acknowledged.  Please state clearly in your email that you applied more than four weeks ago.

During the months of May to October it takes at least four weeks for a valid application to be processed.

Uniform Grants

Applying

How do I apply for a uniform allowance?

Free School Meals/School Uniform/Physical Education Clothing applications for the 2022/23 school year can be made online. Visit our Apply for Free School Meals/Uniform Grant page for more information. 

If you want to apply for the current school year ending on 30 June 2022, please contact the Helpdesk on 028 9041 8044 and ask for a paper application form.

 

What do I need to do when completing my application?

You will need to upload proof of your qualifying benefit with your online application.

If applying under Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit all pages of your Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) for the year 6/4/22 to 5/4/23 must be submitted with your completed application. Tax Credits Award Notices (TC602) before these dates cannot be accepted.

If you have not received your 6/4/22 to 5/4/23 Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) but have received a Tax Credits Annual Review Notice (TC603R) for the year ended April 2022 which states “Check now no later than 31/7/2022” then you can upload this with your application. Tax Credits Annual Review Notices (TC603R) which state “Reply now no later than 31/7/2022” cannot be accepted.

If you misplaced/lost your TC602/TC603R you must contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on their helpline 0345 300 3900 to request a replacement.

If you have not received a (TC602/TC603R) or replacement from HM Revenue and Customs by the end of July 2022 you can submit an application for consideration with a letter stating why a TC602/TC603R is not attached. This may delay your claim.

If you are applying under Universal Credit, you must attach all pages of your most recent Universal Credit Payments breakdown, which can be found by logging into your Universal Credit account and clicking on your most recent payment details where you will be shown the breakdown of all payments and deductions of how your Universal Credit has been calculated. This will ensure you provide us with all of the necessary information.

If you are applying under Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit you must submit your Proof of Benefit letter with your application which can be obtained by the following link https://secure.dwp.gov.uk/get-a-proof-of-benefit-letter/

 

What are my responsibilities as a Parent/Guardian?

You must:   

  • Check your email inbox plus your spam/junk mail folders for replies from the Meals and Uniform Section as this is how we will inform you if your application has been approved/rejected or if you need to do anything further.
     
  • Submit to the Meals and Uniform Section a fully completed application including proof of your qualifying benefit. The child(ren) applied for must be in your actual custody, included in the payments for Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit and the name(s) must be entered as they appear on the Birth Certificate unless they have been legally changed;
     
  • Notify the Meals and Uniform Section immediately of any changes in family circumstances or benefit entitlement;
     
  • Provide the correct Bank/Building Society Details of the person claiming benefit and ensure that this account can accept payment by BACS.  Uniform allowances can only be paid into a bank account stating the claimant’s name.  If you do not have a bank/building society account then your uniform allowance will be paid by a cheque;
     
  • Provide the correct ID to cash your cheque (if paid by cheque) at Bank of Ireland (NI), i.e. current full driving licence, valid passport, electoral card, Translink Smart Pass, student ID/registration card or EU/UK National Identity Card

What happens/how will I know if my application is not successful?

If your application is not successful/approved because you do not meet the criteria you will be sent an e-mail. You can log into your account to view details of what you need to send us. In this case you must make a new submit your application again and attach the correct information to the new application. Check your spam/junk mail regularly in case the e-mail was delivered there. It is your responsibility to reapply resubmit your application promptly or your child/children may not have support in place for the start of the school year.

If I get a ‘More evidence/information required’ email, will a Uniform Grant paid for the start of the school year?

If you resubmitted your amended application in August, due to the large volume of applications, Uniform entitlement may not be paid before the start of the school year.

What happens/how will I know if my application is successful?

If your application is successful you will be sent an e-mail confirming this. 

What information do I need to have beside me before I apply?

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit/Working Tax Credit you need to have the correct proof of all pages of your most recent benefit document saved onto your phone or computer before you begin the application process.  If you are in receipt of Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit you must have your Proof of Benefits letter saved onto your phone or computer.

English is not my first language and I find it difficult to know what I have to do.

Please see our accessibility information to find out more about the Recite Me tool and how to use it. 

I am not very good with computers. Can I get any help with completing the application?

Please telephone our Helpdesk and one of our trained staff will be able to help you. 

How long will it take for my application to be processed?

If you have submitted the correct documentation it can take at least four weeks for your application to be processed during the months of May to October.  At other times of the year it should be processed within two weeks.

Eligibility

Can I apply if I am a student who receives benefit in my own name?

Yes. Complete an application in your own name.  Enter ‘Self-Claimant’ at “Relationship to Child(ren)” and enter your own name, date of birth and school in the section for child(ren).

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if my child attends a Nursery School?

If your child is in full-time or part-time nursery school/nursery unit/reception class, he/she will not be eligible for a uniform allowance.

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if I have a fostered child in my care?

No. If you or the foster carer are in receipt of funding you are not eligible to make application for a uniform allowance.

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if my child is at an EOTAS Learning Centre or Educational Guidance Centre?

Yes. Enter your child’s main registered school on the application and e-mail mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk  or telephone 02890418044 to inform us of the EOTAS/Educational Guidance Centre where your child is attending.  Not all students may be eligible for a uniform allowance.

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if my child attends a full-time course at a Regional College/FE College?

A uniform allowance is not paid for students at Regional/FE Colleges. If the full-time course includes Physical Education an allowance can be paid for PE.

Can I apply if my child is waiting for results and is unsure of what school he/she will attend in September?

Yes. Enter the name of the school he/she is most likely to attend and inform the Meals and Uniform Section by phone or in writing if this information changes.

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if my child has reached 16 years of age on or before 1 July and is not attending a Regional College/FE College?

Yes. The Meals and Uniform Section will write to the school/college at the beginning of the new school year and when confirmation of your child's return is received the uniform allowance will be paid as soon as possible. Payments for students over 16 years of age will not be paid until September/October.

Can I apply for a uniform allowance if my child attends full-time at an Independent School?

Your child will not be eligible for a uniform allowance.  However, you can apply for free school meals if your child attends full-time at an Independent School.

Can I apply if I am an Asylum Seeker?

Yes. You must attach evidence to show that you are supported by the Home Office Asylum Support Assessment Team (ASAT) or that you have applied for support.

Can I apply if I receive Universal Credit?

Yes. If you receive Universal Credit with net household earnings not exceeding £14,000 per year you are eligible to apply. You must attach all pages of your most recent Universal Credit Payments breakdown, which can be found by logging into your Universal Credit account at https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and clicking on your most recent payment details where you will be shown the breakdown of all payments and deductions of how your Universal Credit has been calculated. This will ensure you provide us with all of the necessary information with your application.

General

Can school uniform allowance be backdated?

No. The Meals and Uniform Section requires parents to submit an application for uniform in each school year and a uniform allowance will only be awarded after the claim for the relevant school year has been assessed. The Meals and Uniform Section does not accept or process back-dated claims for uniform allowances.

What are the current Uniform Allowance rates?

 

 

Total  

Uniform 

PE

 Primary School pupils   (born on or before 1 July 2018)

£42.90   

 

 

 Secondary School and Special School pupils

 

 

 

 Under 15 years of age on 1 August 2022

£87.60

 £61.20

 £26.40

 15 years of age or over on 1 August 2022

£93.60

 £67.20

 £26.40

Pupils at Regional Colleges/FE Colleges who are not in receipt of any financial support which includes provision for clothing suitable for Physical Education and where Physical Education is part of their course

    Under Review

 

When will I receive my uniform allowance?

Payment of uniform allowances are made from the end of July. If you enter bank/building society details on the application you should check your account for payment. If no bank/building society details are entered or if you gave given incorrect account details you will receive a cheque by post.

I received an email telling me that my application was received but I haven’t been informed as to whether my application has been successful. What should I do?

You should firstly log back into your account and check the progress of your application. You will be able to see if a decision has been made about your application (‘Approved’ or ‘Not Successful’). If your application has been approved, you will be able to click into it and see the start date for free school meals. If your application states ‘Returned’, this means that information or evidence was missing and we need you to submit the application again with this information/evidence.

If you applied more than four weeks ago and a decision has not been made about your application then you should email the Free School Meals and Uniform Helpdesk on mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk giving as much information as you can i.e. the name under which you applied, your National Insurance Number and the submission number you received when your application was acknowledged.  Please state clearly in your email that you applied more than four weeks ago.

During the months of May to October it takes at least four weeks for a valid application to be processed

 

Applying Online – Technical Support

Do I need to register on the portal to apply for a place for my child?

Yes. Even if you have received Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance for your child/children in the current 2021/22 school year you need to register to enable you to apply for support for the 2022/23 school year.

If you have registered already since 9 June then you do not need to register again.  Only one registration is required.  After registering, you will simply log in on any subsequent visits to the website with your username and password.

 

My child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN Stage 5): If you do not qualify for Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance under your benefit/income but your child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs (at stage 5) and also requires a Special Diet, you do not need to register or apply online.  If your child received Free School Meals under the special diet criteria during the 2021/22 current school year then a pre-populated application form was sent to you which you must complete, bring to a medical professional for verification and return to your local office.

If your child/children did not receive Free School Meals under the Special Diet criteria in 2021/22, you can request a Special Diet Application form by contacting the Meals and Uniform Service

What details do I need to register on the portal?

You need to provide your name, address, National Insurance number, date of birth, contact details and a valid email address. You will need to create a new password which must have a minimum of 14 characters.

What should I do if I have registered on the Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance Portal but have not received an email?

Check for an email from Education Authority Free School Meals.  Please check in your ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ folders.  Please also ensure that your email inbox is not full – i.e. that you are still receiving emails from other email addresses. 

If you are unable to find the email and it has been at least 24 hours since registering, please contact the Meals and Uniform Service or try registering with a different email address.

What should I do if the link in my registration email does not work?

Try copying and pasting the link directly into your internet browser. If you continue to experience difficulties contact the Meals and Uniform Service.

When searching for my address during registration, I cannot find it on the drop down menu, what should I do?

If your address hasn’t been found after you search using your postcode, you will need to manually enter your address in the fields provided.

I have forgotten my password, what can I do?

On the login page click on the ‘get a new password’ link, and follow the on-screen instructions. You will be asked to enter your email address.

You will only receive an email if an account matches the details you have provided. If you have already registered and you have not received an email, firstly check your ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ email folder and if there is no email, contact the Meals and Uniform Service. When creating a new password, please ensure that it has a minimum of 14 characters.

How do I change my password?

Once you are logged into the Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance account, click on ‘My Profile’ and then ‘Edit’. You should then follow the on-screen instructions and enter a new password.

Why has my password not been accepted?

When you create a new password it must have a minimum of 14 characters.

How do I change my email address?

Once you are logged into the Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance account, click on ‘My Account’ and then ‘Edit’. You should then follow the on screen instructions and enter a new email address along with your current password. This then sends an email link to your new email address and you can follow the steps through to log in.

How do I change my personal / contact details?

If you need to change your contact details after submitting your application you can do so by:

  • Logging in to your Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance account.
  • Click on the link called ‘you can request a change’. You can then complete and submit a ‘Change of Details for Parent/Guardian Form’.

 

What are mandatory fields in the application?

The fields marked with a red asterisk * implies that this is required information and must be answered before you can progress to the next stage of the application.

What should I do if I have submitted my application but have not received an email confirmation?

You can log into your account and check that your application has been submitted. Your profile screen will tell you the status of your application and will also give you the ID to quote if you need to contact our Meals and Uniform Service to report any issues.

You can also check your Spam or Junk folders for the email. 

Where can I find out more information about the Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance process?

Information on the Free School Meals and Uniform Allowance process is available on our website and includes:

  • How to apply;
  • Eligibility;
  • Frequently Asked Questions;
  • Contact details;
  • Key Dates;
  • Guidance and Videos on applying online and document upload.

 

I cannot find my child’s school on the application form. What should I do?

Ensure that you have selected the correct school or college type in the box above where you enter the school name.

Search for a key word in the school name and do not try to type the full school name.  For example, for St Patrick’s PS Moneymore, you could search under ‘Moneymore’ or ‘Patrick’

On some devices, the drop-down list with school names will only appear if you click on ‘space’ after you key part of the school name. Please click ‘space’ after the school name.  

In case you know the school under a different name than used by us, you can check the Search Schools function at to verify the school’s proper name on the dropdown list.

If these suggestions do not solve the problem, please contact the Meals and Uniform Service .

I am having difficulties uploading my proof of benefit documents. What can I do?

If you are having these difficulties when using a mobile phone, if possible, try to complete the process using a computer, laptop or tablet and using the Google Chrome browser.

Please make sure that the document which you are uploading is in one of the allowed formats as stated in the application form.

There is a limit regarding how many pages you can attach for each benefit and the total file size which you can upload.  Please make sure that you are not attaching pages from an additional document as well as the document requested by us.

After clicking on ‘Upload’, please allow sufficient time for the upload to be processed.  While this is happening you will see a ‘timer clock’ icon.

For some documents, the file size may be smaller if you can save the document as a pdf file.  For example, if you receive Universal Credit, after clicking into the details of your most recent statement, you can click on ‘print’ and an option will appear to save the complete document as a pdf file.

If you are still having problems uploading photographs, you can scan your document and upload it as a pdf file.  If you don’t have access to a scanner, you can download a free scanner app (e.g. MS Lens or HP Smart).

If these suggestions do not solve the problem, please contact the Meals and Uniform Service

Where can I get help?

You can contact the Meals and Uniform Service Monday to Friday 9am - 4.30pm by:

Telephone:            028 9041 8044  

Email:        mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk

Last updated: 01/07/2022