Sustain / Food Poverty / Taking local action / Improve uptake of Healthy Start and Best Start schemes
Healthy Start map: Estimated loss to families in 2023
In April 2023, on average only 64.5% of beneficiaries were receiving Healthy Start payments, which help pregnant women and parents of young children buy fruit, vegetables, pulses, milk, first infant formula and vitamins. As a result of low uptake due to lack of awareness of eligibility, more than 200,000 beneficiaries* are missing out on this much-needed scheme - a huge loss to families struggling to cover the rising cost of living.
In our Healthy Start map we highlight the estimated value of unclaimed payments** in each Local Authority, as well as the average take up in each area as of April 2023.
Together with the Food Foundation and other organisations advocating improvements to the Healthy Start Scheme, Sustain is calling on Government policy-makers to:
- address technical challenges preventing auto-enrolment of all eligible families
- invest £5 million in a communications campaign to promote the scheme widely
- increase the value of Healthy Start in line with inflation
- expand eligibility to all families on Universal Credit and equivalent benefits with children under five years old
- expand eligibility to all families with young children with No Recourse to Public Funds who are on very low incomes.
> £600,000 shortfall
£450,000 - £600,000
£300,000 - £450,000
£150,000 - £300,000
£0 - £150,000
> 70% take up
65% - 70%
60% - 65%
55% - 60%
0% - 55%
Estimated cash shortfall in 2023
|East of England||£4,461,952|
|Yorkshire & Humber||£4,942,438|
|Belfast Health Trust||£553,199|
|Northern Health Trust||£538,814|
|South Eastern Health Trust||£405,156|
|Southern Health Trust||£518,673|
|Western Health Trust||£466,100|
|England, Wales and Northern Ireland||£53,014,550|
*A beneficiary is an individual who the benefit is meant for (the child or pregnant person). This is not the same as the number of families or households as there could be multiple beneficiaries living within one household.
**Average take up of Healthy Start payments per Local Authority is published by NHS Business Services Authority. Cash shortfall is estimated by multiplying the number of individual beneficiaries missing out by the average weekly payment for March 2023, provided to Sustain by NHS BSA, by 52 weeks for an annual estimate.