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Policy Brief: Healthy Start digital scheme letting down families

Since October 2021, families have been reporting problems with applying for Healthy Start digital cards, using the cards and getting access to the helpline. Front line public health teams, food organisations and child health clinicians are concerned that many more families will lose out on a benefit they are entitled to. 

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The Healthy Start Scheme offers vouchers worth £4.25 per week to pregnant women and children (0-4 years) who are in low-income families, as well as to all pregnant women under the age of 18. 

Digitisation of the scheme began in October 2021, with those on the paper scheme needing to re-register. Uptake of Healthy Start has been historically low, and the new transition risks leaving thousands of families without this vital nutritional safety net due to technical errors, lengthy helpline waiting times and many unjustified application rejections. 

Sustain and the Food Foundation recommend that the Government:

  • Publish uptake data, as well as the number of rejections and a progress report
  • Immediatley investigate and resolve the technical errors
  • Move the Healthy Start call lines to free 0800 numbers
  • Commit to a £5 million promotional campaign
  • Enable online payments using Healthy Start cards
  • Extend the scheme to all families in receipt of Universal Credit

Policy Brief: Healthy Start digital scheme letting down families
2pp - 2022 | 130Kb

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Published 10 Mar 2022

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

2pp - 2022
130Kb

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