Two in five children living in poverty are not eligible for FSM

Two in five children living in poverty are not eligible for FSM
3 December 2020
New research confirms thresholds for eligibility have fallen too low and fail to support many families, particularly those experiencing in-work poverty.

The new analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), shows that at least two in five UK children under the poverty line (roughly 1.3 million children) are not eligible for free school meals. These children are from families in low paid work but do not qualify because of stringent eligibility criteria.


It is estimated that a further 100,000 school children across the UK (who are not covered by universal infant free school meals) are from families with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) because of their immigration status. It is likely that many of these children live well below the poverty line but are not usually eligible for means-tested free school meals.

Here at School Food Matters, we strongly back the call from CPAG for more support for children and families, including:

  • Universal free school meals for all school-aged children in the UK. Universal provision would help to remove stigma, support struggling families and ensure all children can benefit from the learning and health outcomes. 

  • At a minimum, an extension of eligibility for free school meals to all families on universal credit or equivalent benefits

  • Permanently extending eligibility to families below the income threshold who have no recourse to public funds