Can I still get free school meals over Christmas? | The Sun

THOUSANDS of struggling families will be offered free school meals over the Christmas period.

Free school meals are offered to low-income families during term time.

Term times vary across the country, but most schools in England will close for the Christmas holidays on December 20 before returning on January 3, 2022.

And many families feel the financial squeeze pull even harder during the Christmas break.

There are two schemes available for councils to support struggling residents this winter.

Parents whose children qualify for free school meals can claim up to £40 per child, but this will vary depending on where you live.

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The help given to each family depends on the local authority.

They can chose to dish out help under a new round of £421million funding given by the government to the Household Support Fund.

Councils have been given a slice of the funding on offer and can choose how to spend the money and decide who is eligible.

The funding can be dished out to struggling residents to help pay for things like bills and essentials, as well as helping keep children fed in the summer holidays.

Secondly, council can also provide financial support via the Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF).

Some of the vouchers are redeemable at supermarkets, and some can be exchanged for cash at your closest Post Office.

Many councils have already announced what support will be on offer over the Christmas holidays for children who get free school meals.

For instance thousands of families in Bedford who are entitled to income related free school meals will be given vouchers for the Christmas period.

Funded through the Household Support Fund, Bedford Borough Council will continue to provide each eligible child £15 per week.

Meanwhile Oldham Council has announced families will get vouchers worth £20 a week per child over the winter break.

And Blackpool Council and Brighton and Hove City Council told The Sun they will also be providing children with vouchers.

If you live in Blackpool or Brighton, you can find more information on each scheme on the councils' websites.

Who is eligible for free school meals?

Your child may be able to get free school meals during term time if you get any of the following benefits:

  • 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)

Older 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 they attend nursery.

All children in infant school – year two or below – are eligible for free school meals in term time, regardless of their parents income.

Where to go for extra help

If you find that your council isn't providing free school meals this winter, or you're not eligible, there is other support available.

Make sure you're getting all the help you're eligible for by using an online benefits calculator.

Food banks can provide families with emergency supplies – you will need to be issued a voucher by a local community organisation such as a school or GP.

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You can search for your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.

If you're worried about your finances, you can contact charities such as Citizens Advice and Turn2Us for free advice.

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