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Free School Meals

Register for free school meals to help out your school

If your child is eligible for free school meals, it's worth registering them even if they're not going to have the school lunch or if they are now provided with a school lunch following the introduction of universal infant free school meals in September 2014. This is because schools receive a 'pupil premium' - an extra payment for each eligible child which they can spend on useful services. Registering might also get you extra help for things like music lessons or school trips.

Around 1.8 million UK children are entitled to free school meals but more than 330,000 pupils don't get their entitlement. For some children, the social stigma or even teasing attached to being on free dinners puts them off. Often parents don't realise they're entitled or are discouraged by the likely bureaucracy.

Does it matter?

Yes! Children who eat well during the day concentrate better in lessons. Sitting down to a meal together is an important part of children's social education. Also, one child in four doesn't get a hot dinner in the evening.

Other reasons why free school dinners are important:

  • 7% of school children don't eat breakfast
  • Up to 10% of children are deterred from buying lunch at school by the cost (the average amount spent on a school meal is £1.46)
  • Researchers in the US found students scored higher in tests when the nutritional content of school meals was improved
  • 70% of UK parents say there is too little time to prepare meals and then enjoy eating them as a family so the school meal is the only opportunity many children have to enjoy eating as a social activity
  • Weight-for-weight, UK pupils eat four times as much confectionery as green vegetables
  • In an average class of 30 children, six pupils will not eat any fruit in a week

Who qualifies?

In England, 21% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. Parents or guardians in England do not have to pay for school meals if they receive any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
  • Where a parent is entitled to Working Tax Credit Run-on, which is the payment someone receives for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit, their children are entitled to free school lunches
  • Children who receive a qualifying benefit in their own right are also eligible to receive free school meals

From 6 April 2012, Working Tax Credit rules for couples changed and because of the increase in the number of hours a couple has to work in order to qualify, some families may have lost their entitlement to Working Tax Credit. Those families may be entitled to free school meals if they now satisfy any of the above criteria.

However, as soon as you stop claiming any of the qualifying benefits listed above, your entitlement to claim free school meals also ends.

If you live outside the Salford City Council area, you will need to contact the council where you live to claim free school meals.

Salford residents can apply in the following ways:

Apply by telephone

If you are claiming housing benefit and/or council tax reduction which is assessed using one of the qualifying incomes above, for example Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance then we should be able to process your free school meal applications and renewals over the phone, so please call us on 0161 909 6508 to apply.

However, if we are unable to process your application when you call, usually because there is no current housing benefit and/or council tax reduction claim in payment, you will need to apply in person.

How to apply in person

If we are unable to confirm your entitlement when you ring, you can also apply for free school meals at Broughton Hub or our Gateway centres:

  • Broughton Hub, 50 Rigby Street Salford
  • Eccles Gateway, 28 Barton Road, Eccles
  • Pendleton Gateway, 1 Broadwalk, Salford
  • Walkden Gateway, 2 Smith Street, Walkden

Staff at these locations should be able to process your free school meals application on a drop in basis. However, if you would like to see an advisor in a private interview room, you will need to make an appointment by either visiting your nearest centre or by calling us on 0161 909 6504.

In addition, you can apply at Unity House, Civic Centre, Swinton, from 8.30am to 4.30pm daily, except Wednesday when we open at 10.00am, but please be aware, this is a very busy location and you may have to wait to be seen. Customers are therefore advised to attend Broughton Hub or a Gateway Centre first.

Documents you will need to produce

If you are applying in person, please be sure to bring documentary proof that you are currently in receipt of any of the above qualifying benefits, or confirmation that you receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (eg IND letter or a NASS letter).

We will be unable to process your application for free school meals unless we have seen the necessary proof that you are entitled to claim.