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During the COVID-19 situation, and with schools still closed, the government have put in place measures to ensure children eligible for free school meals continue to receive them.
Eligibility for free school meals is linked to benefits so if you have recently started claiming benefits as a result of changes to your circumstances, your child(ren) may be entitled to free school meals. You can go online and apply to check your eligibility for free school meals. If you are eligible, your child's school will then start offering you this support. (See below for more information on eligibility).
If your child is eligible for free school meals, they will be offered vouchers to buy food at supermarkets (participating in the free school meal scheme), food packages or meals, to ensure they continue receiving this support even if they are not at school due to the coronavirus outbreak.
It is up to each school to decide in which way they will be supporting children: vouchers, food packages delivered home or meals offered on the school site.
So in the first instance, please contact your child’s school (even if the school is closed) to find out what arrangements they have put in place and how to access the free school meals.
Who to contact if there is a problem
If your child's school is unable to offer free school meals for any reason or you have any further questions please contact Pupil Support Service by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 020 8825 5566.
If you are still struggling to reach someone and get help, please call Ealing’s Family Information Service on 020 8825 5588 (Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm).
You can also get in touch with Ealing Together a collaboration between Ealing Council and the community to get advice and access food deliveries. Email email@example.com or call 020 8825 7170.
If you still need help to get food - please speak to any professional you are working with to ask them to make a referral to Ealing Food Bank to access their services which include food parcels and deliveries. For more information visit https://ealing.foodbank.org.uk/get-help/how-to-get-help/
If your child’s school is using the government's voucher scheme
You will receive an eCode – this is a 16-digit code which will be sent to you by email from your school’s administrator. You’ll need this code to access the website www.freeschoolmeals.co.uk and choose your supermarket eGift card (voucher). Please note: you cannot use the eCode directly with the supermarket - it must be exchanged for an eGift card (voucher).
If you do not have an email address or access to the internet, your school will print off the ‘eGift card / voucher’ on your behalf and post it to your home address or arrange a collection if easy and safe to do so.
Once you have your eGift card / voucher you can take it along to one of these supermarkets:
- M&S food
Don't forget you may also be eligible to get help from food banks. Please visit our food bank advice page for more information.
How often will my child's school send an eCode?
Your child’s school will have flexibility in how often they send you an eCode. Once you receive it, you have one month to redeem the eCode for a supermarket eGift card. Please note, eGift cards have different expiry dates.
At the supermarket, you can only use the eGift card / voucher for food and groceries.
How do I use a supermarket eGift card?
A supermarket eGift card is a digital voucher. The eGift card email contains a link to a barcode which can be presented at the till in-store either on a smartphone screen or printed on a piece of paper, just like a gift card. Some eGift cards can be used to purchase online.
I’m not able to get to the supermarket?
You can forward the supermarket eGift card to someone else to purchase goods on your behalf if you’re not able to get to the supermarket. The eGift card email contains a link to a barcode which can be presented at the till in-store, just like a gift card.
I have more than one child, will I receive multiple eCodes?
This will be at the discretion of your school who may issue an eCode for each of your children or, alternatively, may send one eCode to you, for the total value of your children’s free school meal entitlement.
For more Frequently Asked Questions click here.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the government has temporarily extended the free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
Families can apply if they are from these groups:
- Children of Zambrano carers
- Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction.
Applicants from the groups above can be earning up to a maximum household income of £7,400 a year after tax.
In addition, the government is extending this offer to children of failed asylum seekers who are being supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Applicants from this group are not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold.
This extension to the government's free school meals scheme is temporarily in place to support families facing difficulties due to the current unique circumstances.
It covers both children who are attending school and children who are at home.
For more information, read the government guidance on providing free school meals during the coronavirus outbreak (link is external).
The application form can be downloaded from the right hand side of this page. Please email the completed application form with any necessary documents to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have trouble using or understanding the application form or if you have any questions, please get in touch wit the Family Information Service for advice and guidance.
Email email@example.com or call 020 8825 5588 (Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm).
Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following benefits. This also applies if you are newly in receipt of benefits due to a change of circumstances:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- 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 get)
Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.
Your child may also get free school meals if you get any of these benefits and your child is both:
- younger than the compulsory age for starting school
- in full-time education
If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2022.