Extending free school meal provisions

From September 2023, the council is extending universal free school meals provision to include children who live in the borough and attend secondary school (up to the age of 16).

+ If you are already in receipt of free meals from your school, there is nothing further you need to do.
+ If you are not in receipt of benefits and have an annual net earned income of more than £7,400, there is nothing further you need to do.
+ If you are receiving benefits but not currently receiving free school meals, it is important that you fill in your child’s registration form.

Free school meals

Tower Hamlets benefits service is responsible for administering claims for free school meals on behalf of the council’s education department.

They are available to children attending schools within Tower Hamlets.

Current provisions

Nursery school

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Yhe guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit - if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

 Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also getf ree school meals.

Your child may also get free school meals if you get any of these benefits and your child is both:

If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2023.

Infant school  

There is national provision to provide universal free schools meals regardless of the parent(s) income.

Primary school 

Tower Hamlets council has extended universal free school meals provision to include children of residents of the borough who attend primary school.

Secondary school

From September 2023, Tower Hamlets council is extending universal free school meals provision to include children of residents of the borough who attend secondary school (up to the age of sixteen).

Children of Parents in Receipt of Universal Credit

Prior to 1 April 2018 children of parents in receipt of Universal Credit were entitled to free school meals. However, the Government has now limited eligibility for UC recipients by introducing a net annual earnings cap of £7,400, (£616.66 per month).

Transactional protection

Children who were getting Free School Meals on 31 March 2018, (including those children whose entitlement was based on the  national universal FSM provisions)  will continue to be entitled until UC is fully rolled out nationally  regardless of any changes to the parents income.

How to claim free school meals

If your child attends Nursery school

The child’s parent (or guardian) must make a claim either by:

  • completing the online registration form
  • completing a paper copy of the claim form available from schools or by telephoning the benefits service on 020 7364 5000
  • making a claim for housing and/or council tax benefit (which also counts as a claim for free school meals – you do not need to complete a separate form in this case)

Information and evidence required:

  • the child’s name, date of birth and school
  • evidence of the parent’s (or guardian’s) income (unless this has been provided already)

If your child attends Infant school

Your child will automatically receive their free school meal.

If your child attends Primary or Secondary school:

Your child 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 by completing the steps above so that your school can receive any additional Government funding they are entitled to. This funding goes towards teacher training, extracurricular activities and additional support for the children that need it the most. 

Telling us about changes in circumstances

If you stop getting income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension guarantee credit or your annual income increases above the threshold amount or if you start to get working tax credit your child’s entitlement to free school meals will end.

Remember you must tell the benefits service about any changes to your income or circumstances. For example you must tell us if you child changes school and if you change address.

Children who attend schools in Tower Hamlets but whose parents live outside the borough

Some local authorities have reciprocal arrangements with Tower Hamlets. You would need to contact Tower Hamlets education services for advice.

Children whose parents live in the borough but who attend schools outside the borough

Parents should apply to the authority where the school is located – the school secretary should be able to give you more information about this.


If your child or children are not entitled to free school meals you can appeal. However, the decision not to grant free school meals does not come under the normal benefit appeals process and cannot be changed unless you can show that the information used in making the decision was incorrect.

If you wish to discuss making an appeal, please call on 020 7364 5000. Appeals are dealt with by the council’s education department, not the benefits service.

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