Families urged to claim free school meals even if children are staying at home

Families of children in Devon who are eligible for free school meals are entitled to food vouchers if their youngsters are at home in lockdown.

Devon County Council (DCC) is urging families to check if their children can claim free school meals as the coronavirus crisis causes hardship.

Free food is available for children – even if they are not in school – with families entitled to food vouchers worth £15 a week, that can be exchanged at most supermarkets.

James McInnes, DCC’s cabinet member for schools, said: “We know that lockdown is causing hardship for many families throughout Devon.

“The explosion in applications for Universal Credit demonstrate that only too starkly. So I would urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to apply, even if their children aren’t currently in school.”

Nationally applications for Universal Credit have gone up dramatically with initial estimates of an extra 10,000 claims in Devon in the last two weeks of March, said the county council.

Schools will provide meals for vulnerable children and children of key workers who are eligible and currently in class.

But eligible children who are at home are entitled to food vouchers worth £15 a week which can be exchanged at most supermarkets.

DCC said the application process was quick and easy and could be done within minutes from a phone, tablet, laptop or PC, with an immediate decision at the end of the process.

A child may be eligible for free school meals if their family receives:
• 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 applied 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)

Families can apply online here, and need to supply their child or children’s name, date of birth and current school as well as their own name, date of birth and National Insurance number.

Families can check whether their child’s school qualifies online here.
More information is available here.

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