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 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 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 – although older children and pregnant women get a bit less.
But NHS data shows almost a third of the more than half a million households (155,000) eligible for the scheme were not claiming the support in March, as the cost of living crisis began to take hold in the UK.
It comes as consumers face soaring food prices, with inflation hitting a record high.
How many families in Crawley are claiming the vouchers?
In Crawley, 393 families eligible for the vouchers are not claiming them (971 families out of 1364 are claiming – 71 per cent uptake). This amounts to £86,900 worth of food being missed out yearly.
In Horsham, there is a 62 per cent uptake with 341 families claiming out of 550 who are eligible. That amounts to £46,200 worth of food being being missed out yearly.
In Mid Sussex, there is a 62 per cent uptake with 411 families claiming out of 625 who are eligible. That amounts to £47,300 worth of food being being missed out yearly.
Who is eligible for Healthy Start?
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
What will you get?
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.
You’ll also be able to get free vitamins.
What can you buy?
The card can be used to buy fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, plain cow’s milk including long-life and ultra-heat treated (UHT) and formula for babies up to 12 months, not including follow-on formula.
How can you apply?
You can 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.
You can also apply by phone or by email, the details of which are on the NHS Healthy Start website.