Families are being urged to check if they are entitled to vouchers to help buy food for their children, after figures revealed almost 150,000 eligible households nationwide were not claiming before the cost of living crisis.
Pregnant women or parents and guardians to children aged under four who are receiving certain benefits are entitled to the vouchers to help buy fruit, vegetables, milk and infant formula.
The benefit is worth up to £36.96 per month per child through a prepaid card to use in stores – although older children and pregnant women get a bit less.
However, NHS data shows 424 eligible families for the scheme were not claiming the support in East Yorkshire during March as the cost of living crisis began to take hold in the UK.
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Almost one in three families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland eligible for the Healthy Start scheme are missing out on NHS vouchers to buy food and milk for their children or to help them through their pregnancy.
The charity Feeding Britain is campaigning for the Healthy Start scheme to be switched to an opt-out rather than opt-in basis, to ensure the support gets to as many families as possible.
A lack of awareness, the bureaucratic nature of the sign-up process and pride and stigma could all be factors in the low take-up rate, according to Feeding Britain director Andrew Forsey.
The charity says it is urging the Government “in the strongest possible terms” to maximise participation in the scheme – particularly as families struggle to put food on the table during the cost of living crisis.
It has also encouraged families to check whether they are eligible – the NHS has details on who can claim Healthy Start.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperon said: “We are committed to promoting a healthy diet for children and providing support to families who need it the most through our Healthy Start scheme.
“The introduction of an online application and pre-paid card for the Healthy Start scheme has led to over 125,000 new successful applications from people who did not benefit from the scheme’s previous paper vouchers.
“Applicants to the Healthy Start scheme must agree to the terms and conditions of their new pre-paid care prior to receiving it. For this reason, we are unable to enrol all families that are eligible onto the scheme automatically.”
Women who are pregnant or families with children under four may be entitled to the Healthy Start scheme if they receive certain benefits.
People who are on Universal Credit can apply if:
They are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under four
Their monthly take-home pay from employment is £408 or less
People who get Child Tax Credit can apply if:
They have at least one child under four
Their family’s annual income is £16,190 or less
Successful applicants will get a prepaid Healthy Start card. Money will be added to it every four weeks.
Pregnant women and those with children aged between one and four will get £4.25 per week, or about £18.48 a month.
Those with children aged from birth to one will get £8.50, the equivalent of £36.96.
They’ll also be able to get free vitamins.
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