Help with childcare and school costs

There is help available for parents and guardians who care for children in the borough. You may be able to claim support for childcare, as well as help with school costs, including uniforms, meals and transport.

Free school meals

Tower Hamlets now provides universal free school meals to all primary and secondary school pupils. All children will automatically receive their free school meal.

However, if your child is eligible for benefits-related free school meals it is still vitally important that you make a claim. That way your school can receive any additional government funding they are entitled to.

This funding goes towards:

  • teacher training
  • extracurricular activities
  • more support for the children that need it most

Find out more about making a benefits-related free schools meal claim.

Help with childcare costs

If you need help with the cost of childcare, there are various options available. You can also use the government’s childcare calculator to see what you might be entitled to.

Holiday Childcare scheme

The Tower Hamlets Holiday Childcare Scheme is Ofsted registered and provides childcare for children aged 3 to 13 years old.

The schemes take place during the school holidays, (excluding the Christmas break) within a Tower Hamlets school.

Find out more and apply for a place on the Holiday childcare scheme.


Support for parents and families

There are 12 Children and Family Centres in Tower Hamlets. These are free and open for all parents and carers with children from birth to 19 years of age (up to 25 for those with Special Educational Needs and Disability) who live in the borough to access a range of services including play, family support, health, training, employment and more. Find your nearest Children and Family centre.

Healthy Start

Healthy start helps families claiming certain benefits to buy healthy food and milk from the 10th week of pregnancy until the child’s 4th birthday. If you are under 18 and pregnant, you are automatically eligible, regardless of your benefit status.

You are sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in supermarkets and other grocery stores to buy healthy food, milk or first infant formula. The card is topped up every four weeks.

Vitamins – Local offer

In Tower Hamlets, all children under the age of 4 and all pregnant and breastfeeding women and up to 1 year post-natal are eligible for free Healthy Start vitamins.

These can be collected from all Children and Family Centres. You must bring your Heathy Start card if you have one or when you get one. Use your location to find your nearest one.

You can apply for Healthy Start Card

Online by visiting the NHS Healthy Start website if you are

  • On Universal Credit and Household’s monthly ‘take home pay’ is £408 from employment
  • Receiving Child Tax Credit and household annual income is less than £16,190
  • Receiving Child Tax Credit and child(ren) under the age of 4.

Over the phone by calling 0300 330 7010 or by emailing if you are

  • Pregnant and under 18 (not on benefits)
  • Receiving Child Tax Credit and child(ren) over the age of 4
  • Receiving Income Related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Receiving Income-based Jobseeker’s allowance
  • Receiving Pension Credit (including Child Addition)
  • Receiving Working Tax Credit run-on

You can also visit your Children Family Centre to help you apply.

Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF)

The Tower Hamlets Holiday Activities and Food programme provides free places to Free School Meal eligible children during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays to help ensure children can access hot meals and fun activities during the school break.

Alongside free healthy food, the activity clubs deliver nutritional education, enriching and physical activities, food education for family and carers, and signposting and referrals to support services.

Tower Hamlets was one of nine pilot areas to first run the HAF programme before it was rolled out to all council areas in 2020.

Travel to school

Transport for London (TfL) offers free travel on London buses to all children under the age of 18 who are in full time education. They also offer other free or discounted travel.

Help with the cost of school uniforms

A school clothing grant can help towards the cost of a school uniform for children aged 11 who are changing from primary to secondary school. Find out if you are eligible for this support.