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.

Read our joint policy position statement in full.

> £600,000 shortfall

£450,000 - £600,000

£300,000 - £450,000

£150,000 - £300,000

£0 - £150,000

No data

> 70% take up

65% - 70%

60% - 65%

55% - 60%

0% - 55%

No data

Estimated cash shortfall in 2023

East Midlands £4,017,823
East of England £4,461,952
London £9,317,029
North East £2,230,845
North West £7,130,649
South East £6,221,989
South West £3,528,706
West Midlands £5,861,036
Yorkshire & Humber £4,942,438
England £48,050,926
Wales £2,481,681
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
Northern Ireland £2,481,943
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.

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