What can you do to increase the uptake of the Healthy Start scheme?

What is Healthy Start?

Healthy Start is the UK’s food welfare scheme for pregnant women and young children in low-income families. The scheme is there to help families who are most in need of this support. Families can access FREE vouchers to spend on fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried and tinned pulses and infant formula milk. Families will also be able to access vouchers for free vitamin drops.

Why are Healthy Start Vouchers essential for the families you work with?

Families from lower social economic backgrounds may face health inequalities resulting in poor health outcomes. It is estimated 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. This includes many households with people in work, families with children, as well as older, disabled and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people.

Recent studies have highlighted the impacts of Covid 19 on child food poverty. Worryingly, 14% of UK families with children have experienced food insecurity in recent months. The Healthy Start vouchers provide a basic nutritional safety net to encourage families to make healthy food choices. Unfortunately, many families miss out on these important vouchers – across the UK only 54.4% of eligible families are receiving them (sourced March 2021).

In the UK, our National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) assesses the diet, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the general population aged 1.5 years and above. The most recent report (2019) reviews the results from the 2008/09-2016/17 surveys highlighting the need to improve nutritional status of young children.

What do the results tell us?

  • There is a reduced intake of most vitamins and minerals
  • Both females and males of all ages showed a significant reduction in vitamin A and folate
  • 19% of children aged 4 to 10 years, 37% aged 11 to 18 years and 29% of adults are not achieving their vitamin D requirements. You can find out more about Vitamin D requirements for Infants and Toddlers here!

Who qualifies for Healthy Start?

Women who are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old, and parents or their family get:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year)
  • Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month).

The following are also eligible for Healthy Start:

  • All pregnant women under 18 years, even if they don’t get any of the above benefits
  • Pregnant women (over 10 weeks pregnant) who claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Families who get Working Tax Credit run-on only. (Working Tax Credit run-on is the Working Tax Credit you receive in the 4 weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours or more per week)

There will be many families in your setting meeting the eligibility criteria who will qualify for the Healthy Start Scheme (particularly families entitled to free childcare for their 2 year old)!

Families can be signposted to the Healthy Start Website to check if they qualify by answering a few short question.

What will families receive?

Healthy Start Food Vouchers

Families that qualify for healthy start scheme will receive weekly foods vouchers. The values* work out as the following:

  • Pregnant Women- 1 voucher per week worth £4.25
  • Infants 0-12 months- 2 vouchers per child per week £8.50
  • Child 1-4 years- 1 vouchers per child per week £4.25

*Based on 2021 values

The food vouchers can be exchanged or spent on:

  • plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
  • fruit and vegetable– plain fresh, frozen or tinned (fruit and vegetables with no added ingredients), whole or chopped, packaged or loose
  • pulses – fresh, dried, tinned pulses
  • infant formula milk that is based on cow’s milk and can be used from birth

Healthy Start Vitamins

Pregnant women, women with a baby under one year old and children aged up to their fourth birth will receive green Healthy Start vitamin coupons. These will be sent, with the Healthy Start vouchers, every eight weeks.

  • Healthy Start women’s vitamin tablets contain Folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D.
  • Healthy Start children’s vitamin drops contain vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D.

  ​Early Start Group Wellbeing and Nutrition Healthy Start Blog Healthy Start Blog​Early Start Group Wellbeing and Nutrition Healthy Start Blog Healthy Start Vitamins

Where can the vouchers be used?

Parents and carers receiving Healthy Start scheme food vouchers should be offered information on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family’s diet. The Healthy Start website details local retailers that accept the Healthy Start vouchers, based on the families address www.healthystart.nhs.uk/.

Families will have up to 12 weeks to use their entitlement (expended from 8 weeks due to the current Covid 19 pandemic, which will continue to be reviewed)

  • At local shops and greengrocers
  • Supermarkets
  • Corner shops
  • Food co-ops
  • Market stalls
  • Milk floats or vans
  • Pharmacies

Healthy Start Vitamin Drops are distributed through primary care trusts. Vitamins are suitable for vegetarians and free from wheat, fish, egg, salt. No colours, flavours or preservatives are used and they do not contain gluten.

Universal Free Healthy Start Vitamins

In some areas, Healthy Start vitamins are free to all families – contact local health visiting teams to find out if they’re free where you live. For example the London Borough of Newham provides free universal vitamins.

London Borough of Newham Universal Free Healthy Start Vitamin Scheme?
All families with children under the age of 4 living in Newham will be in receipt of the Healthy Start vitamins, pregnant and breastfeeding mums will also be entitled to the free vitamins.

Who are the distributing partners in Newham?

  • Childrens Health 0-19 Service
  • Maternity Service
  • Childrens Centres

You can find details for Newham’s Children’s Centres here! Families who have not yet registered for the Healthy Start Scheme that may be eligible for free Milk and Food vouchers/ payments, please continue to promote this and direct families to the Healthy Start website www.healthystart.nhs.uk or if available provide them with an application form (A professional no longer requires to sign the form).

Supporting Families to Use Healthy Start Food Vouchers

There are lots of ways you can support families to use their vouchers and prepare healthy meals. Let’s consider some of the resources available to you and your setting that will help to inspire families to get cooking:

Eat In With Early Start Recipe Videos

Share our ‘Eat in with Early Start’ recipe videos with families and highlight how simple they are to prepare and how cost effective they are.

Eat in with Early Start Recipe Videos

Start4Life and Change4Life Recipes

Start4Life and Change4life have a number of fun, simple and cost effective recipes for the whole family. The provide ideas and inspiration for tasty, healthy recipe with easy to follow instructions, and a shopping list of all the ingredients needed.

Change4Life Website

Start4Life Website

The Meal Mixer app

Eat Smart Shop Smart

In this blog we discuss our top tips for making the most of store cupboard ingredients with top tips for reducing food waste!

How to support families – our 5 Step Guide

Staff working in the early years and health teams play a vital role in helping to increase the uptake of Healthy Start vouchers in your area, for example:

1. Do you routinely check if families qualify for Healthy Start?

Ensure to check with families when they register with your setting. Include the question on your registration form! Families who meet the eligibility criteria for the free 15 hours meet the same criteria as Healthy Start. Ensure all families receiving free education and childcare for their 2 years are signed up to the Healthy Start Scheme!

2. Support families to complete the application form

You can help to ensure Healthy Start is available and promoted in your setting and staff/volunteers can support families to apply

You can support families to apply:

Families can apply for Healthy Start vouchers using a paper form. To apply for Healthy Start vouchers they should:

  1. Download the Healthy Start application form 
  2. Print out the form.
  3. Complete the form.
  4. Post the form to (Either write the address on a plain envelope (you don’t need a stamp) or use the freepost envelope at the back of the application leaflet if you have one):

Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
WA55 1EG

To order hard copies by telephone/online:

  • Call 0300 123 1002
  • Quoting the title and reference number (e.g. HS01a) of the  item you require.
  • You can order additional leaflets and the HS01a application form by visiting www.healthpublications.gov.uk

The following are steps to consider when talking with families.

  • Have a blank application form to hand. Show families that they will need to fill in Part A of the application form carefully in black ink using CAPITAL letters.
  • Remind families to make sure all the information on the form is correct. Since 6 April 2020, families no longer need a health professional to sign their Healthy Start application form.  This means families can leave Part B blank. Don’t forget that the applicant still needs to sign the application in Part A, Section 7
  • Offer support to families to complete their application form, particularly if English is not their first language.

3. Display Boards

A display board in your setting, or an information folder, is a great way to share the information above with families and ensuring those that qualify are aware of this important scheme.

  • Add posters and information on to an eye-catching display
  • You can order posters at the same time as ordering the Healthy Start application OR you can download from the Healthy Start website.

You can get your copies of the different posters here

4. Promoting Healthy Start locally – Media

  • Include an article or news bite in your next newsletter
  • Put a link to Healthy Start on your website www.healthystart.nhs.uk/
  • Share information on your employers social media accounts

Example of information to include in your newsletter/website:

Don’t miss out on your FREE Healthy Start Vouchers

Did you know that with Healthy Start you get free vouchers each week to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula? Each voucher is worth £3.10 so can really help with spreading the cost of the weekly shop. You also get free vitamins!

5. Training for Early Years teams

Don’t forget to book on our Vitamin D – Healthy Start Training to lots more advice and support!

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