Free School Meals and Uniform Grants – increase to earnings threshold for Northern Ireland

Education Minister Paul Givan has announced a short-term change to the eligibility criteria for families applying for free school meals and uniform grants.

To be eligible for free school meals and a uniform grant, households need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit, such as Income Support, Tax Credits, or Universal Credit and have earnings below a certain level.

For the academic year 2024-2025 the annual net earnings threshold for households in receipt of Universal Credit has been raised from £14,000 to a maximum of £15,000.

This change has been made to take into account the ongoing transition of claimants from the old benefits system onto Universal Credit, and also to reflect increases to wages including increases to the National Minimum and National Living Wage.

The increased threshold will take effect from when the Education Authority (EANI) opens its application portal in June 2024 for the academic year starting in September 2024. This is an interim rise pending completion of the ongoing review of the eligibility criteria for free school meals and uniform grants.

For more information on Free School Meals and the Uniform Grant go to

Further information

To find out if your family could be entitled to free school meals or a uniform grant – or other financial support – call the Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 or email Last year, where we carried out a personalised ‘better off’ calculation for a family, we identified an average of £5,600 in financial support they didn’t know they were entitled to.