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 whose parents (or guardian) are either:

  • receiving income support
  • receiving income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • receiving the guarantee credit of pension credit
  • receiving income-related employment and support allowance
  • in receipt of support from NASS (national Asylum Support Service)
  • have an income, as assessed by the Inland Revenue, of less than £15,190 a year (this is called the threshold amount) and who do not get working tax credit but do get child tax credit

Please note you do not have to be claiming housing benefit or council tax benefit in order to make a claim for free school meals for your dependent children.

How to claim free school meals

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

  • completing a paper copy of the claim form available from schools, our One Stop Shops or by telephoning the benefits service on 020 7364 5001
  • 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)

Telling us about changes in circumstances affecting entitlement to free school meals

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 5006. Appeals are dealt with by the council’s education department, not the benefits service.

Personal callers should visit their nearest One Stop Shop to hand in claim forms, obtain receipts and have original evidence photocopied.

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