Family eating meal together

40% of eligible families are yet to sign up for free food vouchers

author: Fiona Peake

By Fiona Peake

Since November 2020, over 57,000 parents have benefited from the Government’s Healthy Start scheme. But with sign-ups plateauing, a call for more awareness of the scheme has been raised.

14% of UK families experienced food insecurities during the pandemic 

Research published in September 2020 by the Food Foundation, revealed that around 14% of families with one or more children had struggled with both accessing and affording sufficient food during the previous 6 months. That’s more than 4 million individuals, over half of which were children.  

This resulted in restricted and unbalanced diets, as well as smaller portions and a negative impact on both their physical and mental health. 

But these figures have not gone unnoticed, with footballer and creator of the Child Food Poverty Task Force, Marcus Rashford, using these statistics to lobby for an increase in budget and support for low-income families. 

In an open letter to health professionals, Rashford asked for further collaborative efforts to be made in order to inform and encourage more eligible low-income families to sign up for the free food vouchers available under the scheme. It comes after findings revealed that 40% of those eligible for the scheme had not registered, with Rashford believing that many are from communities where internet access and word of mouth are limited. 

What is the Healthy Start scheme – and could you be eligible? 

Established to make food more affordable and accessible to low-income families, the Government programme offers free weekly food vouchers to pregnant women and families with children under 4 years old.  

In addition to this, you must also be in receipt of any of the following: 

  • Child Tax Credits (with a family income of £16,190 or less) 
  • Income Support 
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance 
  • Pension Credit (including the child addition) 
  • Universal Credit (if your total take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment) 

    You can still use the scheme if you are: 

    • under 18 years old and pregnant whilst not receiving any benefits 
    • claiming income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are over 10 weeks pregnant 
    • receiving Working Tax Credit run-on (the Working Tax Credit you receive during the 4 weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours or more per week). This applies to either you or your partner 

      Recent Government changes to the scheme have also made it accessible for British children who come from families who aren’t British Citizens themselves. In this case, you need to meet all the following criteria to be eligible: 

      • you have parental responsibility for at least one British child, who is less than 4 years old 
      • your family’s take-home pay is less than £408 per month, and 
      • you are excluded from claiming public funds because of your immigration status or your lack of immigration status 

        The scheme entitles you to vouchers for the following: 

        • £4.25 each week of your pregnancy from the 10th week 
        • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old 
        • £4.25 each week for children between 1-4 years old 

        These food vouchers can be used across 21,000 retail outlets, and entitle you to basic essential foods, including: 

        • cow’s milk 
        • formula  
        • fresh, dried and tinned pulses 
        • fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables 
        • pregnancy vitamins 
        • breastfeeding vitamins 
        • vitamins for children from 6 months to 5 years old 

          The scheme has been proven to increase the amount of money spent on fruit and veg, whilst also increasing the overall nutritional value of household shopping. 

          How do you apply for the Healthy Start scheme? 

          Applying for the Healthy Start scheme is simple, and can be done either by downloading the Healthy Start application form or by calling the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 

          If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible for the scheme, you can use the quick and easy Healthy Start eligibility calculator to find out what support is out there for you and your situation. 

          Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

          Family eating meal together Family eating meal together