Government sets £7,400 annual income threshold for free school meals

Minister confirms rules for who will be entitled to free school meals under the introduction of Universal Credit

Martin George

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Children in families with net earnings up to £7,400 will be entitled for free school meals under the new Universal Credit benefit system, the government has announced.

Ministers said that by 2022, about 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system

The announcement follows a government consultation on eligibility for free school meals, the early years pupil premium and the free early years entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds, in light of the national rollout of Universal Credit.

The government said all children currently receiving this additional support will be protected – and these entitlements will be “more targeted in future, to ensure they reach those most in need”.

Extending free schools meals

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “It is right that we must continue to offer the most disadvantaged young people additional help and I am pleased that, following public consultations, we can extend free school meals and the free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

“Tens of thousands more children will be entitled to free school meals by 2022 compared to the previous benefits system."

This afternoon’s announcement includes:

  • Introducing a net earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit, to take effect from 1 April 2018. A typical family earning around £7,400 per annum would, depending on their exact circumstances, have a total household income of between £18,000 and £24,000 once benefits are taken into account
  • Mirroring these eligibility criteria for the early years pupil premium, which gives additional funding to early years settings to boost the attainment of pupils from low-income families
  • Introducing a net earnings threshold of £15,400 per annum under Universal Credit for eligibility for the 15-hour free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds, to take effect from 1 April 2018


The DfE said the policy will protect every child in receipt of free school meals at the point at which the threshold is introduced – and every child who gains eligibility before the end of the rollout of Universal Credit, until Universal Credit is fully rolled out.

After this, protected children still in school will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their phase of education. No child who has started their two-year-old early education place will lose it as a result of this new proposal.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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