If you’d like to be able to buy healthy food for your family but are struggling financially, there’s help available in the form of Healthy Start vouchers.
But what are these vouchers and how do they work? What can they be used for? Can you use them to buy essentials like infant formula milk or cow’s milk? What about fruit and vegetables?
Keep reading to find out more about the scheme and to see if you qualify.
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What are Healthy Start vouchers?
Healthy Start vouchers are vouchers that people can use to purchase healthy food. They are for pregnant women and those responsible for children under 4 years of age.
You are given a prepaid card with vouchers that can be used to buy healthy foods. These include frozen, fresh, or tinned fruit and vegetables, plain liquid cow’s milk, and infant formula milk.
You can also use them to pick up free Healthy Start vitamins. The free vitamins can be picked up from NHS health centres and clinics, but your health visitor or midwife can help you.
How much are the vouchers worth?
The vouchers are worth:
- £4.25 per week if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant
- £8.50 per week for each infant under the age of one
- £4.25 per week for each child aged between one and four
You get money added to a Healthy Start card every four weeks.
Who is the Healthy Start Scheme for?
You’re entitled to sign up with the scheme and get free vitamins if you have a child or children under four and/or you’re over 10 weeks pregnant. You must also be receiving one or more of these benefits:
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income Support
- Universal Credit – if your household’s take-home amount is less than £408 per month
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit – if your family’s income is less than £16,190
Collecting free vitamins with the Healthy Start Card
To collect free Healthy Start vitamins, you’ll need to show your card to a healthcare professional. No money will be taken from your card, and you can find your nearest distributor on the NHS site.
If you’re based in Northern Ireland, you’ll be sent a letter with instructions about how to collect your free Healthy Start vitamins.
Take a look at this guide to get tonnes of other free baby stuff.
How do I apply for the Healthy Start Scheme?
If you’re already receiving the vouchers, you’ll be told when you can apply for the prepaid card. You’ll be sent a leaflet or letter in your voucher pack. If you’re not already receiving the vouchers, but you’re pregnant or have at least one child, you can apply online through the NHS.
To apply online, you’ll need the following details and documents:
- Your name and address
- Date of birth
- National Insurance Number
- Your due date – if you are pregnant
- A benefit award letter for those over the age of 18
You can also apply by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone by calling 0300 330 7010.
What if my circumstances change?
If you have a change of circumstances, you’ll need to inform the Healthy Start service. Unfortunately, you can’t receive the benefit if you don’t meet the criteria anymore.
Is the Healthy Start Scheme changing?
A digital version of the healthy start scheme was launched, and the paper vouchers were phased out by the end of 2022. The new scheme will provide a prepaid card rather than paper vouchers. The payments will automatically be put onto the card every four weeks.
If you received paper vouchers in the past, you must reapply for the Healthy Start scheme to receive the card.
With a prepaid Healthy Start card, you can still buy essentials like infant formula milk, cow’s milk, and fruit and vegetables – whenever you need them.
If you are applying for the first time, you will be offered a prepaid card as standard.
The benefits of switching to a prepaid card
There are many benefits of switching to the new scheme, including:
- Any money you don’t spend will stay on the card, and you can use it to buy healthy food and plain liquid cow’s milk in the future. This is different to the voucher scheme, where you have to spend the whole amount in one transaction.
- The card is more discreet than cash.
- The payments are automatically added to the card, so you don’t need to wait to receive vouchers in the post.
- It’s a convenient way to buy essentials like fruit, vegetables, and infant formula milk.
Can I apply for the healthy start scheme if I live in Scotland?
No, the Healthy Start programme is only available for those living in England, Northern Ireland, or Wales. If you’re based in Scotland, you can apply for the Best Start Foods scheme instead.
Can everyone use the healthy start scheme?
No, you can only apply for the scheme to buy healthy foods if you meet the eligibility criteria. You must be at least 10 weeks pregnant, and/or have at least one child under the age of four.
Where can I use the healthy start scheme card?
The Healthy Start card can be used in many shops offering fresh, dried, and tinned fruit and vegetables. They can also help to buy infant formula milk, and plain liquid cow’s milk. These include:
- Convenience shops
- Grocery shops
- Food markets
- Petrol stations
- Butchers shops
The shop must have the MasterCard logo displayed for you to use the Healthy Start card. You can usually find the logo on the shop door or by the till.
You can also ask shop assistants if they accept MasterCard. If you try to use the card in a shop that doesn’t accept MasterCard, it will be declined.
Can I stay on the paper voucher scheme?
No, the paper vouchers are ending in 2022. If you don’t reapply for the new prepaid card scheme, you won’t receive the benefit. If you have vouchers left, you can still use them to buy healthy food until the end of the year.
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Be sure to check out the Lidl Baby Event.