Sustain Food Poverty Taking local action Improve uptake of Healthy Start and Best Start schemes

Healthy Start map: Estimated loss to families in 2024

In April 2024, on average only 62.4% of entitled beneficiaries were receiving Healthy Start payments. The Healthy Start Scheme helps eligible pregnant women and parents of young children buy fruit, vegetables, pulses, milk, first infant formula and vitamins. Infants under the age of 1 are entitled to a weekly payment of £8.50, while pregnant women and children under 4 are entitled to £4.25. More information on the Healthy Start Scheme and how to apply can be found here.

As a result of low uptake due to lack of awareness of eligibility, more than 220,000 beneficiaries* in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are missing out on this much-needed scheme - a huge loss to families struggling to cover the enduringly high 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 2024.

Scotland’s Best Start Foods Grant, which is run separately by the Scottish Government, has a 92% uptake rate. Payments are also higher at £5.30 per week for pregnant mothers and children aged 1 to 4, and £10.60 per week for infants under 1.

Together with the Food Foundation and other organisations advocating improvements to the Healthy Start Scheme, Sustain is calling on Government policy-makers to:

  • move toward auto-enrolment onto the scheme to ensure all eligible families benefit
  • increase the value of Healthy Start payments in line with inflation
  • expand eligibility to all families on Universal Credit, to mirror the Best Start Foods Scheme
  • 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.

> £500,000 shortfall

£400,000 - £500,000

£300,000 - £400,000

£200,000 - £300,000

£100,000 - £200,000

£0 - £100,000

No data

> 70% take up

65% - 70%

60% - 65%

55% - 60%

0% - 55%

No data

Estimated cash shortfall in 2024

East Midlands £4,364,913
East of England £5,346,810
London £9,984,530
North East £2,478,019
North West £7,853,077
South East £6,915,908
South West £3,897,506
West Midlands £6,454,516
Yorkshire & Humber £5,354,656
England £52,649,936
Belfast Health Trust £566,277
Northern Health Trust £593,741
South Eastern Health Trust £437,328
Southern Health Trust £554,507
Western Health Trust £450,406
Northern Ireland £2,602,260
Wales £2,662,158
England, Northern Ireland and Wales £57,914,354


*A beneficiary is an individual who the benefit is meant for (the infant, child under 4 or pregnant person).

**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.

The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies