News Right to Food

Healthy Start scheme extended to some migrant families

The Healthy Start scheme is being extended to families with no recourse to public funds after a successful legal challenge. Families who think they are eligible should email the Department for Health and Social Care.



A team of lawyers representing a one-year-old and their mother have succeeded in their legal challenge against the UK Government for excluding migrant families from the Healthy Start Scheme.

The High Court ordered for the case to have a full hearing but the Department for Health and Social Care conceded the case, announcing the scheme will be extended to British children aged under four whose families would qualify for state support if not for their immigration status.

Imogen Richmond Bishop, of Right to Food said:

"It’s great to see this extension announced because no child or family should be locked out of a welfare system that is designed to support society when they’re most in need. Denying families access to this scheme is a clear violation of their right to food as everyone, no matter their background, should be able to benefit from a healthy start in life and this change will help make that happen." 

Healthy Start is a government scheme offering low-income pregnant women, pregnant women under the age of 18 and children aged 1-4 years old a £4.25 voucher per week to purchase fruit and vegetables, milk or infant formula, as well as vitamins. 

Up until now, eligibility for the scheme has been limited to people on mainstream benefits, but people and families who are legally living in the UK, but do not have settled status are unable to access this support, leaving them excluded. The mother who brought about this legal challenge had an income 40% lower than the income threshold for benefits but was still unable to access support due to her immigration status.

This welcome policy change will change that for families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, allowing children who have previously been excluded from the scheme because of parents' immigration status to benefit from the Healthy Start scheme. However, the same change has not been confirmed for the Best Start scheme in Scotland.

How to apply

To qualify for the temporary extension you need to meet all the following criteria:

  • you have at least 1 British child under 4 years old - check if your child is a British citizen if you’re not sure;

  • your family earns £408 or less per month after tax; and

  • you cannot claim ‘public funds’ - either because of your immigration status or because you do not have an immigration status.

People who think they are eligible should email the Department for Health and Social Care and ask for an application form on stating that they believe they qualify.


The Government has also promised a review of the Healthy Start scheme this winter to explore how else it can make the scheme available to more families. As part of this we would like to see the scheme extended to all children from families in receipt of Universal Credit, not just those earning less than £408 a month as is currently required. As well as a commitment to fund a communications campaign to increase awareness and uptake of the scheme.

Published Tuesday 8 June 2021

Right to Food: Everyone has the right to enjoy safe, nutritious and sustainable food. This project advocates the realisation of the Right to Food in UK law.

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