Money Wellness
Image of school children eating lunch at school. Lim Dems to offer all primary school children free food
category iconbenefits
calendar icon03 Jun 2024

All primary school children to get free meals under Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats have announced plans to extend free school meals to all primary school children if they are elected to power in next month’s general election.

The party’s plan includes an immediate extension of free school meals to all 900,000 children living in poverty who currently miss out.

The second phase would see all primary school children receive free school meals as soon as the public finances stabilise.

Currently, free school meals are only available for children in reception, year one and year two. In year three and above, children only receive free school meals if their parents claim certain benefits, such as universal credit. And have an annual income of less than £7,400 before they receive benefits.

The Lib Dems have said they will fund free school meals by applying a 3% levy on the share buybacks of FTSE 100 listed businesses. Share buybacks happen when companies use profits to inflate their own share price.

A similar scheme was used by President Biden in the US. According to the Lib Dems, the levy could raise around £1.4 billion extra a year, which would more than cover the £500 million needed to provide free school meals for all primary school children.

Ed Davey, Leader of the Lib Dems, said: “Across the country, I hear heartbreaking stories of children going to school with empty packed lunch boxes as parents struggle to cover even the basic costs. 

“Children cannot be expected to learn on empty stomachs with no guarantee of a hot meal when they get home.”

What are free school meals?

The government funds free school meals for children from low-income families.

Children in reception, year one, and year two all receive free school meals.

Every primary school child in London will receive free school meals during the 2024-25 academic year under the mayor, Sadiq Khan’s, policy.

Who is eligible for free school meals?

If you claim any of the following benefits, your children could be eligible for free school meals:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseekers allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of pension credit
  • Child tax credit (as long as 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 – as long as your income is less than £7,400 after tax but excluding any benefits you get

How do you apply for free school meals?

If you think your child is eligible for free school meals, you should contact your local authority to find out how to apply.

What is the holiday activity and food programme (HAF)?

If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll also qualify for the holiday activity and food programme (HAF).

HAF provides free food and activities for children during school holidays.

Contact your local council to find out about their HAF holiday clubs.

My child doesn’t qualify for free school meals, is there any other support available to cover the cost?

If you don’t qualify for free school meals and are struggling to afford to feed your family, you could be entitled to help from the household support fund.

Run by local authorities, the household support fund provides cash payments, vouchers, or help with energy bills to struggling households. What you’ll get will depend on how your local authority has chosen to spend its allocation of the fund. Get in touch with them directly to see what support is available to you.

Also, speak to your child’s school and explain your situation, as they may be able to signpost you to other organisation who can help, or provide additional support for your family.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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