Who's entitled to free school meals in the UK and how do you apply for them?

FREE school meals for children is a hotly talked about topic as the UK heads into the winter months and continues to battle coronavirus.

Here's the lowdown on free school meals and what your children may be entitled to.

Who is entitled to free school meals in the UK?

Eligibility for free school meals is restricted to children whose parents or carers claim out of work benefits or income support.

Children of all ages living in households on income-related benefits may be eligible, from Government-maintained nurseries right through to sixth forms.

Eligibility varies slightly between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland because the devolved nations set their own rules.

New claims made from April 2018 in England must come from households earning a maximum income of £7,400 a year after tax, not including any benefits.

Rules are the same in Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland, the household income threshold is £14,000.

How do I apply for free school lunches for my kids?

If you qualify for a free school lunch, you must let the local authority know so they can get extra funding from the government.

Simply click here and type in your postcode to be redirected to your local council's website and apply.

Some councils ask you to contact the school directly.

Was Theresa May going to scrap universal free school meals?

One of Theresa May's pre-election pledges, made in the Conservative manifesto, was to scrap universal free school lunches and replace them with a free breakfast.

This would mean that kids in reception, year 1 and year 2 would no longer automatically qualify for free meals.

However, parents who claim state benefits or are seeking asylum would still have been able to apply.

The Prime Minister's policy would have saved £4billion a year.

Mrs May was forced to abandon her plans because the policy was widely unpopular – and would never have got through Parliament after the Tories failed to win a House of Commons majority.

The policy was scrapped, along with a number of other pledges,  in the Queen's Speech, which was delivered on June 21, 2017.

The Free School Meals scheme helps children eat healthily while in school.

Many MPs want to see the scheme run beyond term time, but in 2020, Tory MP’s voted against this, with many saying they have "let down" society's most vulnerable children.

MP’s voted 322 to 261 votes – a majority of 61 – to not provide school meals for the most vulnerable children in society over the upcoming October break.

The Government extended its free school meal voucher scheme through a £120 million Covid Summer Food Fund, following a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

It followed a high-profile social media campaign – and spat with Government ministers – by the Manchester United star, who called on the Government to consider the plight of children in poverty.

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