The Healthy Start Scheme is a government funded program that aims to increase the health of eligible parents/carers 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 eligible parents/carers who have a child up to the age of 4 and who are on income-related benefits.
Those eligible receive free vitamins and £4.25 each week that can be spent on fruit, vegetables and milk – enabling eligible parents/carers 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, with paper vouchers eventually being fully replaced by digital cards by the end of March 2022.
In Liverpool, prior to the pandemic only two out of every three parents/carers 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.
After 31 March 2022, paper vouchers will no longer be issued. People who still receive paper vouchers need to apply for the new digital service as soon as possible to ensure that they don’t miss out on their payments. Applications for the new scheme can be made at www.healthystart.nhs.uk.
Support for Community Food Spaces
On Monday 21st March Feeding Liverpool hosted a discussion with Community Food Spaces about the Healthy Start Scheme’s digitalisation. We were joined by Rachel Thomas from The Bread and Butter Thing who introduced the scheme, and explained how community food spaces can support it.
Here’s a list of the actions and next steps discussed and agreed on from this discussion time.
Sum Up machines
Feeding Britain have offered to pay for any community food space who doesn’t already have a sum up machine so we can all accept the Healthy Start cards. Get in touch with Naomi on [email protected] if you need help with this.
Your Local Pantry have agreed a 50% split in their membership fees between Healthy Start card and their regular cash/card payments. Their national YLP worker James has written a briefing to pantries about this, which Chris will circulate once we have firmed up our advertising offer. Other community food spaces need to think through the practicalities of how accepting card payments can work with their model.
Feeding Liverpool have agreed to put together starter packs for community food spaces advertising the Healthy Start Scheme.
Training/Healthy Start Champions
Groups felt additional volunteer training would be useful around this. Feeding Liverpool will arrange for 1 x set of online training (hopefully with Rachel from TBBT if she’s available!) and 1 x set of in person training to be offered to volunteers in April/May.
This is one element of a wider project reviewing Healthy Start in the city (funded by Torus Foundation) – over the next few months there will be a series of Healthy Start discussions involving stakeholders. Please support us where you can on ensuring we are listening to the voices of local parents/carers around the city as we work to improve access and increase uptake.
Feeding Liverpool will work to make a section of our website which contains info about Healthy Start.
We are encouraging Community Food Spaces across the city to promote Healthy Start to those who may be eligible for the benefit. The NHS have produced a series of social media assets around Healthy Start, particularly as it has transferred to become digital. They are available here. Materials include animations, email signatures, posters and a social media toolkit.
This year Feeding Liverpool will be leading on an action plan detailing local barriers to the healthy Start Scheme and proposed solutions with the aim of increasing the uptake across the city. Feeding Liverpool are commissioning this piece of work as part of our role in developing Liverpool’s Good Food Plan.