Rashford forces second government U-turn, here’s how to claim free school meals this Christmas


Campaigning efforts by Marcus Rashford have seen the government cede ground once again in the ongoing agenda to support free school meals. The latest climbdown will not be an entirely straightforward extension of free school meals, but it will see a 170m 'ring-fenced' fund distributed to councils, with the BBC reporting that 'at least 80% of that fee will be earmarked for help with food and bills'.

This is part of the government's Covid Winter Grant scheme to support those hardest hit by the pandemic, and the most vulnerable families. The Department for Work and Pensions have stressed that this is part of a 'long-term plan' to tackle health, hunger and education. This includes the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which is intended to provide healthy food and engaging activities for disadvantaged children being extended across England next year. The new measures will also see Healthy Start scheme payments increase from £3.10 to £4.25 from next April. These payments support pregnant women and those with children under four to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

Rashford revealed that he had spoken to the Prime Minister over the weekend and offered his thoughts on the new announcement via his media platforms. He said: "There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on Free School Meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn't quite low enough, but the intent the government have show today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that." He added that, "the steps made today will improve the lives of nearly 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 month, and that can only be celebrated.

Anne Taylor, Executive Director for The Food Foundation released a statement:

“This is a big win for disadvantaged children. A win for all those brave parents and children who have spoken up about their experiences of food poverty. And a win for the 1.1 million individuals across the country who showed how much they cared by signing Marcus Rashford’s petition.

Today’s announcement shows the government is serious about tackling children’s food poverty – funding programmes worth more than £400m that will improve the lives of more than 1.7million children over the next 12 months. Together this represents significant progress on 2 of the 3 calls in Marcus Rashford’s petition and the National Food Strategy Part 1.

But we must keep in mind that a similar number of disadvantaged children (approx. 1.7 million) will continue to miss out on the benefits of free school meals and healthy start because the qualifying income criteria are currently set far too low. Children’s food poverty, like the pandemic, will not go away until we have a lasting solution in place. We’ve started the journey today, thanks to the Government’s commitment, and we need to see it through so we can #EndChildFoodPoverty.”

How to claim

You may be eligible to claim free school meals should you get any of the following:

  • 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) 


The Gov.uk website allows you to enter your postcode from where you will be redirected to the appropiate webpage for your local council to make your claim. It will also allow for you to check for local guidelines, so we'd recommend clicking the link here. Below is an illustration.





gov.uk website

Input your address into the searchbox.









gov.uk website

Click the link to head over to your council's respective webpage.









gov.uk website

Follow the guidance from your local council's webpage.





For more guidance, visit the gov.uk website.

Mayowa Ayodele


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