The Healthy Start Scheme is a government funded program that aims to increase the health of women on low incomes and their young children to give them the best start in life.
It is available to women who are 10+ weeks pregnant or have a child up to the age of 4 and who are on income-related benefits. They receive free vitamins and £4.25 each week that can be spent on fruit, vegetables and milk – enabling women who have little disposable income to be able to prioritise healthy food and increase their vitamin and mineral intake. The scheme has recently become digitised, paper vouchers will eventually be fully replaced by digital cards by the end of March 2022.
In Liverpool, prior to the pandemic only two out of every three women in Liverpool eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme claimed this benefit, although this number has fluctuated. There is concern that uptake may be affected significantly during the switch over from paper to the digital scheme as claimants are required to re-register.
In Liverpool, we know that one in three adults is food insecure, and that only one in two adults regularly eat their 5-a-day. Poor nutrition, throughout the life cycle, including during pregnancy and early childhood has significant knock-on effects on mental and physical health, increasing the prevalence of diet-related diseases.
We want every child to have the best start in life; as a city we follow the Marmot Principles which includes seeking to be a place where everyone has a healthy standard of living. Increasing the uptake of the Healthy Start Scheme is a key part of working towards this vision.
Studies have been conducted exploring some of the barriers preventing full uptake of the Healthy Start Scheme. Potential barriers include:
- Limited awareness of the scheme amongst target group
- Low confidence around how to access and use the Scheme
- Burden of administration around confirming eligibility for the scheme
- Limited number of retailers participating in the scheme (this is shifting with the digitalisation of the scheme)
- Stigma of using a means tested scheme
- Challenges around the transition from paper to the digital scheme
With the aim of increasing uptake of Heathy Start Scheme in Liverpool, this project aims to identify local barriers and propose solutions.
The project is working with key stakeholders including (but not limited to) a diverse group of eligible women all of whom currently use the scheme; a diverse group of eligible women do not currently access the scheme; health care professionals including midwives, GPs, health visitors; children centres and community groups who connect with eligible women.
Visit this page for updates about the Healthy Start for Liverpool project soon.