Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered at on 4 December 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they plan to update the Free Schools Meals Guidance to explain how local authorities and schools should provide free school meals to eligible disabled children who, for whatever reason, cannot access them.

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench

To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the finding by the charity Contact that a third of eligible disabled children do not access free school meals for reasons that may be linked to their disability, such as being too unwell to attend school or being unable to eat the meals due to dietary or sensory requirements; what steps they are taking in response; and, in particular, whether they intend to offer a voucher scheme to such children during term time.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Lords Spokesperson (Equalities)

Schools have a duty to provide nutritious, free meals to pupils that meet the eligibility criteria, including being a registered pupil of a state funded school. Free School Meal (FSM) provision should be made to eligible pupils either on the school premises or at any other place where education is being provided. The department expects schools to act reasonably in ensuring that their food provision accounts for medical, dietary and cultural needs. The department has published statutory guidance (attached), which describes steps a school may take, including the establishment of individual healthcare plans which may include special diets.​

Local authorities are funded to support children with special educational needs, including those who are unable to attend school on a long-term basis. The department has published guidance to provide more information, which can be found at: The department continues to keep its guidance under review to ensure that free school meal eligibility supports those who most need them.

HL404_HL405_guidance (pdf, 309.9KB)

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