Free School Meals

The Education Authority (EA) for Northern Ireland is responsible for assessing eligibility for Free School Meals based on Department of Education (DE) / Department for the Economy (DfE) criteria.

FAQs

This information relates to the 2019/20 school year only.  Information relating to the 2020/21 school year will be provided in the next few weeks.

How do I apply for free school meals for the 2020/21 school year?

If you are currently in receipt of support for the 2019/20 school year a pre-populated application will be sent to you shortly to complete and return.

If you are a new applicant you can either request a paper application or you can download an application from the EA website or you can apply online.  Please see under ‘Applying’ for further details.

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 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. Please forward all pages of your most recent Universal Credit Statement with your application.

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 be determined from the date the application is received.

What are my responsibilities as a Parent/Guardian?

You must:   

  • Submit to the Meals and Uniform Section a fully completed application showing or including proof of benefits/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;-
     
  • Choose the correct postage method for sending your form/other documents.

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

If you receive Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit, your paper application needs to be stamped by the Agency paying your benefit.  If you apply via our website we will try to obtain this information on your behalf which may delay your claim. You do not need to send your Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) 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 6/4/20 to 5/4/21 must be submitted with your completed application.  Tax Credits Award Notices (TC602) before these dates cannot be accepted.

If you have not received your 6/4/20 to 5/4/21 Tax Credits Award Notice (TC602) but have received a Tax Credits Annual Review Notice (TC603R) for the year ended April 2020 which states “Check now no later than 31/7/2020” then you can send this with your application. Tax Credits Annual Review Notices (TC603R) which state “Reply now no later than 31/7/2020” 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 2020 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 Statement.

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

Only parents/guardians who have made a new claim will receive a letter advising them when the meals will start. The school will also be informed.

Last updated: 30/06/2020