Project 17

Free school meals during the Covid-19 pandemic

On 6th April 2020 eligibility for free school meals support was extended to some families with ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) for a temporary period as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The Government has said the extension will continue pending an inter-departmental review of eligibility.

You can view or download our information sheet for families here and a template letter for newly eligible families to send to schools here.

We have also created a template self-declaration form to go with the letter for Zambrano carers who are applying for free school meals for their children.

While this change will provide essential support to some families with NRPF during the public health crisis, it does not go far enough. Here's why:


  • Families with NRPF need access to free school meals beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. The public health crisis has exacerbated the issues families are facing, but those affected by NRPF were experiencing exceptional poverty before Covid-19.


  • Many families initially missed out as the household income threshold was too low. After initially setting the maximum income threshold at £7,400 a year, the government increased it to £16,190 a year on 28 May 2020 following legal action. This was then increased to £31,500p/a for families living within London, and £28,200 for those outside of London. However, we're still concerned that this initial lower threshold pushed families with NRPF into household food insecurity during the early duration of the Covid-19 crisis.


  • Many undocumented families are still excluded. Undocumented families who are not in receipt of asylum support or support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 are still unable to access free school meals, despite the fact that they are likely to be experiencing the highest levels of destitution.