Improving the uptake of Healthy Start vouchers
Healthy Start is the UK’s food welfare scheme for pregnant women and infants and young children in low-income families, who are amongst the groups most at risk of being in food poverty. Healthy Start vouchers are an important means-tested scheme providing a basic nutritional safety net to encourage families to make healthy food choices. Pregnant women and children over one and under four years old can get one £3.10 voucher per week. Children under one year old can get two £3.10 vouchers (£6.20) per week.
Families who receive Healthy Start Vouchers are also sent green coupons, which they can exchange locally for Healthy Start branded women’s and children’s vitamins.
Healthy Start provides an opportunity for retailers who provide locally grown and sourced food. Smaller retailers in markets, those offering food in box schemes or through community supported agriculture schemes and those providing food via social pantries and social supermarkets are often not linked in to the Healthy Start food voucher scheme.
Data from between 2011 and 2018 shows a major deterioration in the number of Healthy Start Vouchers being taken up mainly due to the changes in the benefits system, families are unlikely to reach the thresholds and yet there is a major rise in food insecure families.
In 2011 there were 717,066 families/individuals eligible to receive Healthy Start vouchers and 80% of these (571,674 families) applied for and used the vouchers.
In 2018 where only 499,697 were eligible, less still applied for and used the vouchers, 66% (327,375families/individuals). Some of this was put down to difficulties working with the DWP in getting forms completed. 30% of forms are ejected because they are not filled in correctly, this can be something as simple as writing outside of the box, promotion of the scheme is very inconsistent too, with varied levels of advertising across the UK.
In Devon we have one of the lowest levels of uptake, with 1584 households being eligible to receive the vouchers and only 56% of these doing so.
The vouchers entitle the holder to purchase Cows Milk (whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed), Plain fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables (whole, chopped, packaged or loose), or Infant formula milk (based on cows milk.) Any retailer stocking at least one of the above items is able to accept healthy start vouchers as payment.
In Plymouth and the surrounding area you can use your vouchers at the following retailers:
Tamar Valley Food Hubs, Lidl, Bestaways – Union Street, King Street News, King Street Pharmacy, Neswick Street Stores, Mccolls, Joe Browns Fruit and Veg, Dawns Stores, Iceland, Cost Cutter, Beacon Park Stores, Ham Convenience Store, Well Plymouth, Yasi Company Ltd, G&K Off licence, Boots, Tesco, Superdrug, Spar, Morrisons, Mount Gould Traders, Riverford, Wilkinsons, Mr Mike Smith, Harvest Home, DI Flowers Ltd Fruit Stall, Freemans Bakery, Bargain Booze, Honicknowle Stores, Kings Tamerton Stores, Mount Lynher Stores, Poets Corner Stores, Co-Op, Cornish Farm Produce, Waitrose and Spuds.