FOI release

Changes to working tax credit and free school meals entitlement

Entitlements to free school meals after the working tax credit changes in April 2012.



  • Date requested: 11 February 2013
  • Date reponded: 25 February 2013


  1. On 6 April 2012 working tax credit changed. This meant couples with children had to work 24 hours a week rather than 16 to qualify for working tax credit. Can you please tell me how many children in the country have lost entitlement to free school meals because of this change?

  2. And how many couples with children in the country have been affected by this change? I would also appreciate a breakdown by region if possible.


Q1. No children lost entitlement to a free school meal because of the change to working tax credit. Families would be more likely to be entitled under the change. In England, children are eligible to receive free school meals (FSM) if their parents are in receipt of any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). (Where a parent is entitled to Working Tax Credit Run-on – the payment someone receives for a further 4 weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit – their children are entitled to free school lunches. Children who receive a qualifying benefit in their own right are also eligible to receive free school meals.)

The free school meal eligibility criteria can be found on our website.

Q2. You have asked how many couples with children have been effected by this change. We do not hold this information. You may wish to contact HMRC with a request for information.

Published 19 September 2013