PARENTS of children beginning or returning to school in September can now apply for free school meals and clothing grants.

Westmorland and Furness Council provides free school clothing grants which are worth £50 for each primary school child and £100 for secondary pupils.

Anyone who has successfully applied for free school meals will also receive free school clothing grants.

To be eligible for free school meals, the family's annual household income must be no higher than £22,700 for families with one child or £26,300 for families with two or more children.

This includes any wider income or support families may be getting and any earnings from employment.

They must also have less than £16,000 in savings, including any shares, investments and bank accounts, but not including their home.

Since 2014 all children in reception and years one and two have been automatically entitled to free school meals but many parents miss out on a free school clothing grant because they have not officially applied for free school meals.

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According to the council, if a family with children is eligible for free school meals but hasn’t applied, their school could also miss out on a Pupil Premium payment from the government of up to £1,320 each year.

Anyone who’s already successfully applied for free school meals in the past does not need to apply again and will continue to receive them as usual.

However, parents must apply for each child starting school for the first time. 

They will need to submit a new application for that child only, regardless of whether older siblings get free school meals.

Where possible all parents and guardians should apply online.

To register, visit the Citizen Portal on the council's website.

For those who apply online, they will receive an immediate response telling if they are eligible for the vouchers.

If unable to apply online please contact the free school meals team on 0300 373 3300.