NHS Healthy Start: Figures show 1,800 Northamptonshire families missing out on help to buy food as inflation jumps again

Almost one in three not claiming for NHS vouchers to buy food and milk for children or help through pregnancy.

By Harriet Clugston
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:42 pm

Families are being urged to check if they can get vouchers to help buy food for their children after figures revealed more than 1,800 eligible Northamptonshire households were not claiming.

Pregnant women or parents and guardians with kids aged under four who receive certain benefits are entitled to NHS Healthy Start 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.

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Figures show more than 1,800 Northamptonshire families and mums with young children are missing out on help from the NHS Healthy Start scheme

But NHS data shows almost a third of the 4,000 county households eligible for the scheme were not claiming in March, as the cost of living crisis took hold.

In West Northamptonshire 2,098 of the 2,974 who could get the scheme applied. In North Northamptonshire, where 2,970 were eligible, 1,979 applied.

That meant more than £430,000 going unclaimed in the county at a time when families face soaring food prices, with inflation hitting a 40-year high.

Figures published on Wednesday (June 22) showed the consumer prices index rose to 9.1 percent in May from nine percent the previous month — its highest rate since early 1982 according to the Office for National Statistics.

Charity, Feeding Britain, is campaigning for Healthy Start to be switched to an opt-out rather than opt-in scheme to make sure support gets to as many families as possible.

Director Andrew Forsey believes lack of awareness, bureaucratic nature of the sign-up process and pride and stigma could all be factors in low take-up rates.

It has also encouraged families to check whether they are eligible via the NHS Healthy Start website.

Mr Forsey said: “Between them the government and local authorities hold the data that show exactly who is entitled to what.

"All we need is that little bit of extra effort to sign up families automatically while, of course, giving them the chance to opt out.

"Sadly, at the minute people are falling through the cracks."

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The introduction of an online application and pre-paid card for the Healthy Start scheme led to over 125,000 new successful applications.

“Applicants must agree to terms and conditions prior receiving their pre-paid card. For this reason, we are unable to enrol families automatically.”

Who is eligible for Healthy Start?

■ Pregnant women or families with children under four, if they already receive certain benefits.

■ People who are on Universal Credit earning £408-a-month or less

■ People who get Child Tax Credit earning £16,190-a-year or less

What will you get?

■ A prepaid Healthy Start card with money added every four weeks.

■ Pregnant women and those with children aged between one and four will get £4.25 per week.

■ Those with children aged under one will get £8.50.

■ You’ll also be able to get free vitamins.

What can you buy?

■ Fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, plain cow’s milk and formula for babies.

How can you apply?

Online through the NHS website with your name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and benefit award letter, as well as your baby’s due date letter if you are pregnant.