Photo 184729833 / Free School Meals © Ihor Butko | Dreamstime.com
The Education Authority (EA) is appealing to families who may be eligible to apply for free school meals and uniform grants to do so before the end of July.
The application process has moved online for the first time this year and Frances Meehan, Assistant Director of Pupil Admissions, Financial Support and Procurement at the EA, has said she is delighted with the response from families to date.
“Over 41,000 families have applied so far which is fantastic but we want to make sure that everyone eligible has applied before the end of July so that application forms can be processed in time for the new school year,” Mrs Meehan explained.
The EA also want to remind families who were in receipt of free school meals and uniform grants in previous years that they need to apply again.
“You do need to apply every year as circumstances can change and the new online system will make the process more streamlined,” Mrs Meehan continued.
Families can apply for Free School Meals and Uniform grants if the pupil(s) is in full-time education and if they are in receipt of one of the following benefits: Income Support; Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit; Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit with an annual taxable income of £16,190 or less; Universal credit and have net household earnings not exceeding £14,000 per year.
You can also apply if you are an Asylum Seeker supported by the Home Office Asylum Support Assessment Team (ASAT); or if your child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet.
103,000 children and young people availed of free school meals and uniform grants in 2020/21 and Mrs Meehan explained that advice and guidance is available for anyone who needs it:
“We have ‘how to guides’ and general advice on our website and If you are unsure or have any questions we have a dedicated helpdesk number and email you can contact as well,” she said.
There is no deadline for making an application for free school meals or uniform grants for the new school year commencing on 1st September 2021 but there is an approximate four week processing time for applications.
“You can apply at any time of the year and it is important that you do because circumstances can change at any time for families, and they may become entitled to the support. But, we want to get the message out to anyone who might think they are eligible now to apply. Please don’t delay, apply today so we can process your application in time for the new school term,” Mrs Meehan said.
To apply online please visit www.eani.org.uk/fsm
If you have any queries or difficulty in completing an online application you can get in touch with the EA via their dedicated helpdesk on 028 9041 8044 or by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org