Save, make, understand money

Household Bills

London families to save £1,000 as free school meals policy to be extended

London families to save £1,000 as free school meals policy to be extended
Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Hundreds of thousands of state primary school kids in the capital will continue to receive free school meals in the 2024/25 academic year, helping families save up to £1,000 per child.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has earmarked £140m in his 2024/25 budget to extend free school meals for another year to help families during the continued cost-of-living crisis.

It comes after £135m in emergency funding was distributed in September 2023, allowing all primary-aged pupils in state-funded mainstream school, special schools and pupil referral units in London access free school meals.

So far, more than 17 million meals have been distributed to 287,000 pupils, with Khan estimating the extension for another academic year will help save London families up to £1,000 per child over the two years.

Before then, only children in reception, year one and year two were eligible for free school meals. Meanwhile, older children in years three to six in primary school only received free meals if they lived in households on universal credit earning less than £7,400 a year – after tax and not including benefits – regardless of how many children in the family. As such, many children from working families in poverty weren’t able to receive free school meals.

Khan said the proposed extension will help hundreds of thousands of children who don’t qualify for Government help to receive meals, improving nutrition and reducing stigma for children who would ordinarily get means-tested meals.

The move comes as a YouGov poll, commissioned by City Hall, revealed that more than a third (35%) of parents or carers of children under 18 are buying less food and essentials, with 41% using less water, energy or fuel to help them manage living costs. Three in ten said they are ‘financially struggling’.

The Mayor revealed every borough in the capital will receive £3 per meal as part of the draft budget so they can continue to deliver the scheme from September 2024. This is up from the £2.65 per meal distributed for September 2023, and is 18.5% higher than the amount they receive from the government at £2.53 per meal.

Free school meals a ‘lifeline for families’

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moment as Mayor as I have seen the difference it has made to the children receiving them and to their families. I am thrilled to announce my intention to extend this lifeline for families for yet another year.

“I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make and it’s been fantastic to hear from teachers how much better children are performing and also how much parents and their children have benefited, with parents not having to worry about how to provide their children with a healthy, nutritious meal during the school day. Sadly, Londoners continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis and we have worked hard to find the money to provide this vital funding for the next academic year.

“I will continue to do all I can to help families cope with the cost-of-living crisis as we build a fairer and more prosperous London for all.”

The Mayor’s draft budget for the Greater London Authority Group is due to be published on 17 January 2024, with the final draft budget expected on 14 February 2024.

Related: Working parents of two-year-olds: Application open for 15 hours’ free childcare

Families urged to open a Tx-Free Childcare account and save up to £4,000 a year.