Free school meals

Your child will qualify for free school meals if they're in full-time education and you receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • guarantee element of state pension credit
  • child tax credit with no working tax credit and have an income as assessed by the Inland Revenue that does not exceed £16,190 (subject to change annually)
  • support under Part 1V of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit - if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you receive)

Children who receive a qualifying benefit in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.

The Department for Work and Pensions have laid emergency regulations so those arriving in the UK from Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion, can claim Universal Credit and access jobs support immediately. Families should claim for free school meals in the usual way under the usual eligibility criteria.

Your child won’t qualify for free school meals if you're receiving working tax credits and disabled working tax credits, except for the four-week run-on paid after you've stopped qualifying for working tax credits.

A copy of this information is also available in Chinese, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Urdu.

Changes to free school meal entitlement - Universal Credit rollout

From April 2018 the criteria used to determine which pupils are eligible for free school meals was updated to reflect the introduction of Universal Credit and the phasing out of other income-based benefits.

Transitional protection as part of Universal Credit rollout

To ensure families are not disadvantaged during the rollout, protection arrangements have been put in place. 

This means that:

  • Any child eligible for free school meals on 31 March 2018 will retain their eligibility until the end of the rollout, March 2023, regardless of whether their circumstances change.
  • Any child who becomes eligible during the rollout of Universal Credit (from 1 April 2018 to March 2023) will retain their eligibility until the end of the rollout, March 2023, regardless of whether their circumstances change.
  • Once the rollout of Universal Credit is complete, no child will lose their entitlement and will continue to be transitionally protected until the end of their current phase of education.

Transitional protection applies to all children whether eligible through legacy benefits or Universal Credit. 

A pupil is only eligible to receive a free school meal when a claim for the meal has been made on their behalf and we have verified their eligibility. We will continue to use the DfE Eligibility Checking System (ECS) to determine eligibility for free school meals.

Transitional protection is on an individual child basis and not on a family basis. This means that other children in the family will not automatically be entitled to free school meals. Children must meet the eligibility criteria at the time the application for free school meals is made in order to be entitled.

Universal infant free school meals

All infant age pupils (reception/years 1 and 2) are entitled to receive a free school meal. 

Although infant children will automatically receive a free school meal, we're asking families who have a statutory entitlement to free school meals to still complete the apply for free school meals form online so we can check if the school is entitled to receive Pupil Premium for your child. If you are eligible for free school meals not only does this allow your school to receive Pupil Premium but you will get protection to FSM beyond year 2.

The Pupil Premium grant is provided by the government for each eligible child, and can be up to £1320 additional funding to support your child's education and fund valuable support and resources in school.

Apply for free school meals if you live in Barnsley

If you live in Barnsley and your child goes to school in Barnsley, Bradford, or Kirklees, fill in our application form below for free school meals.

If you live in Barnsley, but your child goes to school in Rotherham, Doncaster, Sheffield, Leeds or Wakefield, you should apply to the council in the town where your child’s school is situated.

Apply for free school meals if you live outside Barnsley

If you live in Rotherham, Doncaster, Sheffield, Leeds or Wakefield, but your child goes to school in Barnsley, fill in our application form below for free school meals.

If you live in Bradford or Kirklees, but your child attends school in Barnsley, you should apply to the council offices where you live for your child’s free school meals.

What happens next

When we receive and process your application, we’ll write to you to confirm your entitlement. We’ll also notify the school, via a secure portal, that your child can have free school meals. Schools will make sure this information is treated with the strictest confidence and handled sensitively.

If you've applied for infant free school meals (reception/year 1 and 2), we won't write to you to confirm your entitlement as your child will automatically receive a free school meal.

Changes you must tell us about

You must tell us straight away if:

  • your benefits change
  • your child leaves school or moves to another address
  • your child moves school
  • you move to another address
  • you start work or, if you’re already working, you increase your normal hours, work overtime, or get a pay rise.

You don't need to re-apply for school meals if you move address or your child changes schools - we can change the details on our system and inform schools.  We'll also check your benefit details.

Other benefits you may be entitled to if your child gets free school meals

If your child receives free school meals, they'll qualify for free school milk.

They'll also be entitled to a group instrumental music lesson at a third of the normal price and free hire of an instrument. The lessons have to be provided by Barnsley Music Service.

School children who are entitled to free school meals might also qualify for help with school transport costs. See our school travel page for help with travel to school.

Automatic award for free school meals

The government allows us to use information we already hold for Housing Benefit and Council Tax support claims to identify households who may meet the criteria for free school meals but have not yet made an application.

We enter your surname, National Insurance number and date of birth into the Department of Educations’ eligibility checking system to confirm if you are entitled.

We don't see any other information about you or your family, and we're not allowed to ask anything else from the Department of Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue or the Benefits Agency. The information is kept securely and we follow strict procedures about how we look after your personal information under the Data Protection Act. It would be illegal for us to misuse or share details about you for any other purpose that you don’t know about and agree with.

If you don’t want to have your information used for the automatic award then please contact us online. Your information will not be checked for entitlement and will be taken off the lists we send to schools.

Data protection

We’ll use the information from your free school meals application form, and any supporting evidence you send us, to process your claim. We’ll not give information about you to anyone else, or use information about you for other purposes, unless the law allows us to.  Please get in touch if you’d like to know what information we have about you or how we use it.