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Universal Infant Free School Meals

The DfE have produced some guidance around Universal Free Infant Meals detailing schools' obligation to provide free school meals to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2.

HCL have undertaken a review of all their sites and identified any issues in meeting the duty. Simon Newland has written to all non-HCL schools asking them to identify any issues that they will have in meeting the duty.

HCC has produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions on the duty to provide Universal Free Infant Meals from September:

UFIM - FAQs
Revenue - FAQs

Schools seeking information or advice on the capital works programme being developed to support schools readiness for the duty should contact Catherine Tallis, email: catherine.tallis@hertfordshire.gov.uk.

UFIM and Impact on Pupil Premium June 2014

FAQs Applying for Free School Meals for UIFSM pupils
Guide to completing an application for Free School Meals
HCC Letter to Schools
Schools Guide to Ever6

 

Free School Meals

It is easier than ever for families to apply for free school meals.  Applicants do not usually need to provide paper proof of benefit and there have been significant improvements to the renewal process, so that all the checking goes on in the county council without the need to ask parents to renew.

Please continue to promote free school meals in your school information. Free school meals help:

  • children to do better in school
  • to reduce anxiety for families.
  • Schools also receive the Pupil Premium (£900 per eligible child in 2013/14) based on eligibility for free school meals.
New Applications

Parents/Carers should apply for free school meals online at:

As soon as an application is submitted, Hertfordshire County Council uses the Eligibility Checking Service (ECS) to check if the parent/carer qualifies for free school meals.  In most cases the ECS can confirm entitlement immediately, and therefore most applicants do not need to provide paper proof of benefit.  We advise them of the outcome at once, and also inform their school that the application has been approved.

The ECS can only be used to check applications for free school meals, so parents/carers who are applying for other educational benefits available in Hertfordshire (namely remission of music fees, SaverCard, TrainCard and cycle training fees) will still be required to provide paper proof of benefit (unless they are applying for free school meals at the same time).

Schools continue to be advised of new students who are eligible for free school meals via the Solero report. Please email us at howcanwehelp@hertfordshire.gov.uk if any of the students on your Solero free school meals report appear incorrectly, for example if a child on your list no longer attends your school.

Free School Meals should not be provided to students until eligibility has been confirmed.

Renewals

The free school meals renewals process has been completely automated over the last few years, which has helped to streamline the process.  It is important that schools give parents/carers the correct information about the process, to avoid duplicate records in the system and confusion for all concerned.

This is what happens.  The county council checks all free school meal records against the ECS to check eligibility.  Where eligibility continues, nothing needs to be done, except that the county council send schools an updated list of eligible pupils through Solero.  If the check indicates that an applicant’s situation has changed, and they are no longer eligible, the county council writes to the applicant to tell them that their entitlement to free school meals has ended.  Again, the school is kept informed through Solero.

As the ECS checks against central government records, these renewal checks are very accurate, but there may be some cases where parents/carers identified as no longer eligible are in fact still entitled to free school meals.  In this situation, they just need to apply again, and we run the checks again.

Additional benefits to parents/carers and schools are that:

  • they no longer need to write to us to tell us when their child changes school, as this information is checked centrally
  • remission of music fees for those children receiving 100% remission, continues automatically.

(But please note that parents/carers entitled to 50% remission for their children’s music lessons do need to reapply through the Customer Service Centre)

Share the message

Please help us to ensure that parents/carers know about free school meals.  Make sure that the information given to parents is up-to-date, and parents are not asked to reapply at the end of the summer term.

Please do what you can to promote the online application process. Online applications should only take about five minutes to complete, and feedback from applicants tells us that most people find it quick and easy. Online transactions are also more cost-effective for the county council. 

And don’t forget - the Pupil Premium, is paid direct to schools for each child registered for free school meals and amounted to £900 per eligible child in 2013/14.

If parents don’t have the internet at home, please remind them that they can use a computer in public libraries, UK online centres and via some Children’s Centres.  You may even be able to make a computer available sometimes in your school – perhaps during open days. 

For further information about free school meals please email: howcanwehelp@hertfordshire.gov.uk or call the Customer Service Centre on 0300 123 4048.  This is also the number for parents/carers to use if they wish to apply for free school meals over the phone.

Downloads

Free School Meals Card
Free School Meals Poster
Free School Meals Factsheet (REVISED)
Meal Prices 2014-2015