Educational awards and benefits - free school
Free School Meals(FSM) are not provided
automatically, they are available to people who are classed as
unemployed and receiving a qualifying benefit.
The parent, guardian or student needs to
complete an application and return it to the school or the FSM
office at County Hall. An application cannot be
made retrospectively, the FSM process is a set criteria and there
is no appeals process.
Children who receive Income Support(IS) or
Income Based Jobseekers Allowance(IBJSA) in their own right are
also entitled to claim free meals under the same application
If a child attends school or the
parent/guardian resides in Northumberland the applicant can apply
to Northumberland Authority for free school meals.
Refunds for free school meals are only made in
exceptional circumstances. These are handled on an individual basis
by the school.
How do I apply for free school meals?
You can apply either by:
completing the online form
- over the telephone on FSM 01670 623592
- completing a paper application form which is available
from any school or FSM Office Northumberland County Council
County Hall Morpeth NE61 2EF
Paper forms can be returned to the school or The FSM
office. Benefit details for applications can be checked by us
on receipt of the information although on some occasions
the confirmation may not be found and you will be contacted
with a request to provide your proof of benefit.
What do I need to qualify?
To be eligible for help you need to be
in one of the following categories:
- Receive Income Support(IS) or Income-based
Job Seekers Allowance (IBJSA).
- Receive Income Related Employment Allowance
- Have an entitlement to Child Tax Credit
(CTC), but not Working Tax Credit (WTC) and the family's annual
income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is not more than £16,190
for tax year 2012/2013(this figure changes on an annual
- Receive support under part VI of the
Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
- Receive the guarantee credit element of
What if I receive Working Tax Credit?
You will not be entitled to Free
School Meals if you, or your partner, receive any Working Tax
Credit on a regular basis.
However, where a parent is entitled to
'Working Tax Credit Run On' during the four week
period immediately after their employment ceases, or after they
start to work less than 16 hours per week, their children are
entitled to Free School Meals.
We are unable to directly confirm this 4 week period of
eligibility via ECS so we must ask parents to provide a copy
of their Tax Credit decision notice.
How long will the process take?
Applications are processed as quickly as
possible however, at peak times forms are dealt with in strict
datal order therefore the timing for a response to an application
depends on the volume of forms awaiting processing.
If the application is received before lunch
the meals will be started from that day, after lunch will be
started the following day. The school will be notified of
your entitlement immediately by telephone or email. If applications
are handed in to the school, and confirmation of benefit has
been received the school can start the
How often do I apply?
Approved meals will run the whole of a childs
school life unless there is a change in circumstances however,
all current claims for free school meals are reviewed monthly and
applications will be automatically extended if we receive
confirmation of benefit using our electronic system.
If your benefit results come back as not found
a letter will be sent out to you giving you two weeks
to contact us or your entitlement will be cancelled.
Further proof of benefit would be
required in order for the school meals to
When would I not be eligible?
You are not eligible if you are in one
or more of the following categories:
- Part time pupils (children at nursery) are
not entitled to free school meals. To qualify children must be
receiving education before and after the lunch period.
- Pupils whose parents receive other state
benefits but not those mentioned above.
- Pupils whose parents receive Working Tax
Credit on a regular basis.
- Pupils who are in foster care, if a child is
fostered the Carer will be receiving an allowance which covers all
costs for the child, including meals at home and school.
What if my circumstances change?
Schools and the FSM office should be
notified immediately of any changes:
If you start work and your benefit changes/stops
- If you change address
- If your child changes school
- If you change your name
Failure to notify us of a change of
circumstance may affect your child's entitlement to free school
meals. If your child receives free meals when they are no longer
eligible, you will be required to reimburse the school any monies
If you have not informed us of a change of
address or you do not renew your award, your entitlement will be
cancelled. You will be responsible for the payment of any meals
taken and this will not be refunded, meals will not be backdated,
it is your responsibility to keep us informed.
Adding a sibling to an existing claim
To add a new child to an existing claim, contact the FSM office
- the child's name
- Date of Birth
- school they will be attending
- older siblings details
What if my child is excluded from school?
If your child has been excluded from school and is placed in an
Alternative Provision, the entitlement to free school meals may be
cancelled because the establishment may not have the provision to
provide school meals and you may have to supply your child with a
packed lunch. Please check with your child's Alternative Provision
Can I claim anything else for my child?
The approval of a FSM application would entitle a child
- Free milk - in First or Special school milk
at break-time will be free for the time the child is entitled to
free school meals. The child's school will make the appropriate
arrangements for the free milk.
- Help with music tuition and instruments -
Parents can claim a refund of £3.00 per session from the costs when
7 of the 10 classes have be attended by the student. The child's
school will make the appropriate arrangements for this
- Help with curriculum related
residential trips or school visits - The child's school
will make the appropriate arrangements for this service.
Fuel for Life - Meals in Northumberland Schools
To find out more about the meals served in Northumberland
schools click here Fuel for Life