Frequently Asked Questions: Free School Meals/Uniform Grants

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

Applications for Free School Meals and Uniform Grants can take up to four weeks to be processed.

If you have submitted the correct information as requested then only contact us if you have not received a response four weeks from the date of your application.

If you have not submitted the correct information we will email you, please check your email junk folder.

Payment of Uniform Grants for children aged over 16 will not be made until confirmation is received back from schools that they are registered for the current year. If your child is over 16 please do not contact the Meals and Uniform Helpdesk.

Free School Meals

Applying

How do I apply for free school meals?

Free School Meals/School Uniform/Physical Education Clothing applications for the 2021/22 school year can now be made online. Visit our Apply for Free School Meals/Uniform Grant page for more information.

 

What do I need to do when I have completed my application?

If you apply via our website you will need to upload proof of your entitlement i.e. Universal Credit, Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) etc. to the Meals and Uniform Section.

If applying under Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit all pages of your Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) for the year 6/4/21 to 5/4/22 must be submitted with your completed application.  Tax Credits Award Notices (TC602) before these dates cannot be accepted.

If you have not received your 6/4/21 to 5/4/22 Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) but have received a Tax Credits Annual Review Notice (TC603R) for the year ended April 2021 which states “Check now no later than 31/7/2021” then you can send this with your application. Tax Credits Annual Review Notices (TC603R) which state “Reply now no later than 31/7/2021” 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 2021 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.

What are my responsibilities as a Parent/Guardian?

You must:   

  • Submit to the Meals and Uniform Section a fully completed application showing or including tax credits/Universal Credit. The child(ren) applied for must be in your actual custody, included in the payments for Child Benefit or Child Tax 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 rejected?

If your application has been rejected because you do not meet the criteria you will be sent an e-mail stating why you are not eligible for support. If your application has been rejected because you have not sent the correct proof of a qualifying benefit, you will also be sent an email stating what you need to send us. In this case you must make a new application 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 promptly or your child/children may not have support in place for the start of the school year.

If I get a rejected e-mail and have to reapply, will Free School Meals be available and a Uniform Grant paid for the start of the school year?

If you submitted your second application in August, due to the large volume of applications, Free School Meals and Uniform entitlement 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. 

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 your benefit document saved onto your phone or computer before you begin the application process.  You must also ensure that you have an email address as we will contact you by e-mail to confirm that your application has been received and whether or not it has been successful. More information is in our Notes of Guidance

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 will take at least four weeks for your application to be processed.

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.

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 the EOTAS Centre or the Educational Guidance Centre attended along with the registered school on the application. 

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 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 in the School or College to be attended column 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 meals and uniform in each school year and free school meals 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 free school meals. Entitlement for eligible claims will commence on a date after the application has been processed.

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 received an e-mail 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?

If you applied more than four weeks ago and have checked your spam/ junk mail and have not received an e-mail then you should e-mail the Free School Meals and Uniform Helpline on mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk giving as much information as you can ie the name under which you applied, your National Insurance Number and the submission number you received when your application was acknowledged.  If you applied less than four weeks ago then you should not contact the Helpline either by phone or e-mails as it takes at least four weeks for an application to be processed

Will payments in lieu of free school meals continue to be made to parents for eligible students in attendance at Further Education Colleges ?

The Department for the Economy has confirmed that the temporary arrangement of providing term time Free School Meals allowances through direct payments into households for eligible Further Education students, will revert to pre COVID arrangements from 1 November 2021. The temporary arrangement was implemented as part of the Covid response and need to support remote learning. With a resumption of face to face on-site learning within Further Education Colleges this is no longer required. This decision aligns with DE’s approach for school pupils. Free School Meals vouchers will be available from 1 November 2021 within Further Education Colleges for eligible Further Education students.

Free School Meals holiday payments will continue to be made directly into households of eligible Further Education students.

Uniform Grants

Applying

How do I apply for a uniform allowance?

Free School Meals/School Uniform/Physical Education Clothing applications for the 2021/22 school year can now be made online. Visit our Apply for Free School Meals/Uniform Grant page for more information.

 

What do I need to do when I have completed my application?

If you apply via our website you will need to upload proof of your entitlement i.e. Universal Credit, Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) etc. to the Meals and Uniform Section.

If applying under Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit all pages of your Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) for the year 6/4/21 to 5/4/22 must be submitted with your completed application.  Tax Credits Award Notices (TC602) before these dates cannot be accepted.

If you have not received your 6/4/21 to 5/4/22 Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) but have received a Tax Credits Annual Review Notice (TC603R) for the year ended April 2021 which states “Check now no later than 31/7/2021” then you can send this with your application. Tax Credits Annual Review Notices (TC603R) which state “Reply now no later than 31/7/2021” 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 2021 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.

What are my responsibilities as a Parent/Guardian?

You must:   

Submit to the Meals and Uniform Section a fully completed application showing or including tax credits/Universal Credit. The child(ren) applied for must be in your actual custody, included in the payments for Child Benefit or Child Tax 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 grants 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 rejected?

If your application has been rejected because you do not meet the criteria you will be sent an e-mail stating why you are not eligible for support. If your application has been rejected because you have not sent the correct proof of a qualifying benefit, you will also be sent an email stating what you need to send us. In this case you must make a new application 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 promptly or your child/children may not have support in place for the start of the school year.

If I get a rejected e-mail and have to reapply, will Free School Meals be available and a Uniform Grant paid for the start of the school year?

If you submitted your second application in August, due to the large volume of applications, Free School Meals and Uniform entitlement 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. 

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 your benefit document saved onto your phone or computer before you begin the application process.  You must also ensure that you have an email address as we will contact you by e-mail to confirm that your application has been received and whether or not it has been successful. More information is in our Notes of Guidance

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 will take at least four weeks for your application to be processed.

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 the EOTAS Centre or the Educational Guidance Centre attended along with the registered school on the application.  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?

Students attending Regional/FE Colleges are not eligible for a uniform allowance. However, if their full-time course includes Physical Education an allowance can be paid for PE clothing.

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 in the School or College to be attended column 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 meals and 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. Entitlement for eligible claims will be determined from the date the application is received

What are the current Uniform Allowance rates?

 

 

Total

Uniform

PE

 Primary School pupils   (born on or before 1 July 2017)

Total £35.75

Uniform    /

PE  /

 Secondary School and Special School pupils

Total 

Uniform 

PE 

 Under 15 years of age on 1 August 2021

Total £73.00

Uniform £51.00

PE £22.00

 15 years of age or over on 1 August 2021

Total £78.00

Uniform £56.00

PE £22.00

 

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

     

 

When will I receive my uniform allowance?

Payment of uniform allowances will not be made before mid-August. 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 e-mail 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?

If you applied more than four weeks ago and have checked your spam/ junk mail and have not received an e-mail then you should e-mail the Free School Meals and Uniform Helpline on mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk giving as much information as you can ie the name under which you applied, your National Insurance Number and the submission number you received when your application was acknowledged.  If you applied less than four weeks ago then you should not contact the Helpline either by phone or e-mails as it takes at least four weeks for an application to be processed.

Last updated: 27/10/2021