How to get free school meals over Christmas – are you eligible for supermarket vouchers? | The Sun
THOUSANDS of struggling families can get help with food costs over the Christmas.
Free school meals are offered to low-income families during term time but some families can get them over the festive period too.
Term times vary across the country, but most schools in England will close for the Christmas holidays in the week commencing December 18, before returning in the first week of January.
Many families feel the financial squeeze pull even harder during the Christmas break.
But parents whose children qualify for free school meals can claim up to £60 per child, although the exact amount will vary depending on where you live.
The support comes through the Household Support Fund, which is worth £842million in total.
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Councils across the country have been given a slice of the funding and can choose how to spend the money and decide who is eligible.
It can be dished out to struggling residents to help pay for things like bills and essentials, as well as helping keep children fed during the Christmas holidays.
Councils can also provide financial support via the Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF).
The free school mean vouchers are usually redeemable at supermarkets, and some can be exchanged for cash at your closest Post Office.
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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 Essex who get the term-time help will be given vouchers for the Christmas period.
Essex County Council will continue to provide each eligible child up to £60 in supermarket vouchers.
Check with your local council to see how much you can get.
Who is eligible for free school meals?
Children whose parents claim certain benefits are eligible to receive free school meals:
- 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 four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit
If your child receives free school meals during term time then they should be entitled to vouchers during the holidays also.
However, check with your local council as this can change between areas.
You can apply for free school meals through your local authority's website.
What is the Holiday Activities and Food grant?
The government has provided councils with a fund to cover holiday activities for children from low-income families.
The scheme ran during the Easter and Summer holidays this year and will continue over the 2023 Christmas break.
Families who are eligible for free school meals can attend the activities and holiday clubs for no extra charge.
Other children may have to pay a fee to attend.
While this isn't a food parcel or voucher, free food is provided at many of these holiday clubs.
Check your local council website to find out what is available in your area over the school holidays and how to sign up.
Where can I go for extra help this Christmas?
If you find that your council is no longer giving out free school meals, 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.
You can search for your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.
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If you're worried about your finances, you can contact charities such as Citizens Advice and Turn2Us for free advice.
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