Free School meals position Statement 15th April 2020

Go-live  of the Government’s Scheme

All schools in Manchester will transfer to the Government’s voucher scheme from Monday 20th April.

All parents and carers of children that are entitled to means tested free school meals or are classed as an asylum seeker household supported by the Home Office should contact their school to receive support via this scheme.

The Council’s temporary COVID free school meal scheme will close for these families on Friday 17th April 2020.

The Manchester Temporary COVID Free School Meal Scheme

Households with an entitlement to free school meals 

The Manchester Temporary COVID Free School Meal Scheme will pay £10 per week for each child from 23rd March to 17th April 2020.

Families missing out and not claiming support

Approximately  12,000 eligible children (between 4-6,000 families) out of 17,000 identified have not applied for this support.

We are going to do some follow up via schools and colleagues in Children’s Services so that families claim this support.

Applications will still be considered up to the end of May for families who would have been entitled to this support.

Households with no existing entitlement to free school meals that may be experiencing severe hardship

The Manchester Temporary COVID Free School Meal Scheme will pay £10 per week for each child for an initial four week period for families experiencing severe hardship. This may be extended in some cases. Funds for this are limited and paid from a Covid Hardship Grant paid to the Council. 

This could include the following circumstances:

  • • An immediate drop in income not covered by the means tested benefits regime
  • • A decrease in self employed income
  • • Waiting for a Universal Credit claim to be paid
  • • Domestic violence or family displacement
  • • Other immediate need or hardship arising from COVID 19.

Each case will be considered on its own merits.

Where appropriate other support may be considered to support families including fuel and food grants.

Residents who have become unemployed or experienced a substantial fall in income due to Covid19 are strongly advised to claim Universal Credit and Council Tax Support or seek other available financial support from the Government. See the Council’s Coronavirus – Benefits and money webpage for more advice).

Free School Meals for other vulnerable Groups 


The Secretary of State has recently agreed by pre-action response to extend free school meal entitlement temporarily during the current crisis to children from the following groups provided their families meet the usual income threshold for FSM:

  1. 1. Children whose parents are Zambrano Carers;
  2. 2. Children in families with LtR subject to NRPF restriction;
  3. 3. Children whose families receive support pursuant to section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who have no recourse to public funds; and
  4. 4. Children in failed seeker families receiving section 4 support.

Therefore, children from the above groups will now be eligible for the support under the Covid 19: school meals policy whereas originally they were excluded. The Covid 19 scheme enables eligible children to have school meals delivered and collected from school or access to £15 weekly vouchers per eligible child.

We understand that this will benefit children from the above groups regardless of whether or not their school had been helping them on a discretionary basis with their school meals prior to the pandemic.

The Government has not stated in definitive terms how long this extension will last, stating that this will not be “long term”. However, the Government has stated that it will be applied for such a period as considered appropriate in light of the coronavirus crisis.

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