PARENTS are being urged to use an easy online tool to find out if their children are eligible for free school meals.

Southend Council’s website enable parents of children who might qualify for free school meals to check their eligibility quickly and discreetly.

The service, which was launched in September last year, enables parents to apply for the benefits which are worth £10 to £15 per week per child and provide daily lunchtime hot meals for school-aged children.

Every pupil who takes up their entitlement also earns their school a cash payment of £488 (rising to £600 in 2012/13) to be used for the benefit of pupils.

Mark Flewitt, councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “Some parents feel awkward when it comes to applying for free school meals.

“The online service enables them to check their child’s eligibility for this very important benefit without having to come in to school to make a face-to-face application.”

For a list of qualifying benefits and further information, visit