Healthy Start is a means-tested scheme introduced by the Government that aims to help pregnant women and children in low-income families eat more healthily.
Of course, it's important for all of us to be mindful of what we eat and to try and make sure we have a balanced diet. This is even more important for pregnant women and young children.
But when money is tight, it's sometimes not possible to purchase healthy foods which unfortunately are often more expensive than less-healthy options.
By setting up the Healthy Start Scheme, the Government enables young mothers and their children to have access to food and vitamins that will not only promote good health but also establish an eating regime that will hopefully last throughout the mother and child's lifetime.
What's Does the Healthy Start Scheme Offer?
Those that qualify for the scheme will receive weekly vouchers which can be used to buy various healthy foodstuffs from participating local retailers.
The vouchers are worth £3.10 and can be exchanged only for certain items. According to the Healthy Start website, you can obtain:
- Plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
- Plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg (fruit and vegetables with no added ingredients), whole or chopped, packaged or loose
- Infant formula milk that says it can be used from birth and is based on cow’s milk.
If your child is under the age of one, you will get 2 vouchers a week, each worth £3.10.
You and your child are also entitled to receive free Healthy Start vitamins which are "specifically designed for pregnant and breastfeeding women and growing children."
Do I Qualify?
If you are pregnant and under 18, you automatically qualify for the scheme. If you are over 18, you need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four and be in receipt of any of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit (where the family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
- Working Tax Credit (where the family is receiving the 4 week run-on payment)
Where Can I Use the Vouchers?
Basically, you can use the vouchers at any shop which has registered to accept the vouchers. As well as the larger supermarkets, you can also use the vouchers in many small shops, market stalls, milk floats and pharmacies.
You can enter your postcode here to find out which shops are currently registered for the scheme in your area.
How Do I Apply?
You will need to fill in and submit an application form in order to receive your vouchers. You can obtain one from your midwife or health visitor or you can contact Healthy Start by telephone on 0845 607 6823 and ask them to send you one in the post.
Alternatively, visit the Healthy Start website where you can either fill in the form online or print off your own copy.
Once you have filled in your details, you will need to get it signed by your midwife/health visitor - if you don't, your application will be rejected.
Then, simply send your form to the following address (it's freepost so you don't need a stamp):
Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
All that remains is to wait for your vouchers to arrive and decide what you are going to buy with them!
Photo By Olearys (Frutas e Vegetais) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons