Changes to free school meal entitlement: rollout of universal credit

From April 2018, the criteria used to determine which pupils are eligible for free school meals was updated to reflect the introduction of Universal Credit, and the phasing out of other income-based benefits.

Transitional protection as part of Universal Credit rollout

To ensure families are not disadvantaged during this rollout, protection arrangements have been put in place.

This means that:

  • Any child who was eligible for free school meals on 31 March 2018 will retain their eligibility until December 2023, regardless of whether their circumstances change.
  • Any child who becomes eligible during the rollout of universal credit (from 1 April 2018 to December 2023) will retain their eligibility until December 2023, regardless of whether their circumstances change.
  • Once the rollout of universal credit is complete, no child will lose their entitlement and will continue to be transitionally protected until the end of the current phase of their education.

For schools that use Nottinghamshire County Council’s eligibility assessment service, a child is only eligible to receive a free school meal when:

  • a claim for the meal has been made on their behalf
  • Nottinghamshire County Council has verified their eligibility.

Nottinghamshire County Council will continue to use the DfE (Department for Education) Eligibility Checking System (ECS) to determine eligibility for free school meals.

Transitional protection is on an individual child basis and not on a family basis. This means that other children in the family will not automatically be entitled to free school meals. Children must meet the eligibility criteria at the time the application for free school meals is made in order to be entitled.

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