School meals

Free school meals

Every child in reception, year 1 or year 2 at school is automatically offered free school meals, without parents or carers having to apply.

If your child attends a state-funded school and you receive any of the benefits listed below, you can apply for them to get free school meals up to year 11. You don't have to apply up to year 2 but, if you do, you child's school will receive extra government funding.

Who is eligible

Your child may be eligible for free school meals if you receive either:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • 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
  • Universal Credit – provided your total net earnings are no more than £616.67 each month
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Your child must be attending a state-funded school in the Thurrock area. If your child attends a school outside of Thurrock, you must apply to the council for the area in which they attend school.

You may also be able to claim free school meals for your child if you have 'no recourse to public funds' – for example, if you cannot claim benefits.

You must make a new application for your child to receive free school meals, even if:

  • their siblings already receive free school meals
  • you move to Thurrock and previously received free school meals in the area you moved from – if you send evidence of your previous entitlement to the email address below, we will use it to update your application

You do not have to make a new application:

  • if your child changes school in-year within Thurrock
  • if your child moves from primary to secondary school within Thurrock
  • at the start of each school year, even if your child's school says you should – this is because the government is allowing entitlements to continue automatically, either until it finishes introducing Universal Credit (expected during 2023), or your child leaves school when they complete year 11 or a sixth form college connected to the school, whichever is sooner

How to apply

You should apply online below so your application can be checked automatically with government records and processed more quickly.

When applying, select 'create an account' if you don't already have a Thurrock Council account for free school meals, free 2 year-old childcare or school admissions.

Free school meals applications

After you apply

We assess applications within 5 working days. If we ask you to provide evidence, you must send it to us within 2 weeks using the email address below.

After your application has been assessed, you will receive an email telling you the outcome. If your child is eligible, our team will:

  • tell your child's school that your child is entitled to free school meals
  • let you know that this entitlement has been confirmed

Entitlements are not backdated.

Contacting us

You should only contact us directly by email if you need to send us supporting evidence or if you are having technical difficulties with our online system.

You should not contact us to ask how your application is progressing as we will not be able to tell you before we have completed a full assessment.

Education Awards and Benefits
Thurrock Council, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, RM17 6SL