All London primary age children to get free school meals for a year from September – here's what we know
Every primary age child in London will get free school meals in the 2023/24 academic year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed. Here's what we know so far.
Update: 27 July 2023: The Mayor's office has now confirmed that free school meals in London will be administered by schools automatically, and parents WON'T need to do anything to benefit.
However, if you're on a low income and getting certain benefits, such as income-based jobseeker's allowance, Income Support or Universal Credit, it's still worth applying for the main benefits-linked free school meals scheme in England. That's because your child's school will then get additional funding from the Government. See our Free school meals guide for full info and help.
The one-off measure will help around 270,000 primary school children and save families around £440 a child across the year, the Mayor's office has said. It will be funded using income from business rates (a tax on commercial properties such as shops, offices and pubs), which is higher than previously forecast.
The youngest school children in England already get free school meals automatically from reception to year two (roughly aged 4 to 7) – this is regardless of their family's income. See our Free school meals guide for more info on how this works across the UK.
If you're not currently getting any benefits and you're on a low income, use our 10-minute benefits checker to ensure you're not missing out on vital support.
It's not yet clear how the scheme will work in practice
The Mayor's office has confirmed that the scheme will cover all 32 London boroughs and the City of London.
However, it's not yet clear whether parents will have to apply for or opt into the free meals, or if the scheme will operate automatically. A spokesperson for the mayor told us that City Hall would "work with boroughs and partners to provide the meals".
It's worth noting that the London boroughs of Newham, Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets already offer universal free school meals at primary level, while Westminster also started offering them as of last month – but only for a period of 18 months.
Live outside London? Check if your child's eligible for free school meals
As outlined above, all children in England in reception, year one and year two qualify for free school meals. Older children in England whose parents claim certain benefits may also be eligible to receive free school meals. Eligible benefits include:
- 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)
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Income support
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of pension credit
- Universal credit
- Working tax credit run-on - paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for working tax credit
In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales free school meals work slightly differently – see our Free school meals guide for more info.