Healthy Start Scheme
Emma is passionate about ensuring children have the best possible start in life and improving the NHS Healthy Start Scheme is a key part of that process.
What is the NHS Healthy Start Scheme?
The NHS Healthy Start Scheme is a prepaid card offered to eligible parents with children under 4 years old, or women who are more than 10-weeks pregnant, in order to buy nutritious fruit, vegetables, milk and baby formula.
The scheme was introduced by the Labour government in 2006 with the aim of improving access to a healthy diet for families on lower incomes.
The cost-of-living crisis has seen the number of children living in food poverty almost double last year, now standing at nearly 4 million. A shameful 27 per cent of households with a child under the age of 4 experienced food insecurity in a month during 2023.
With the average weekly Healthy Start payment for households being £7.86, this could be the difference between a child having a healthy and nutritious meal or not.
Despite this, currently over 200,000 families are missing out on this vital payment as take-up of the scheme is a paltry 64% of those eligible as per June 2023.
Recent switches to digital systems have caused issues and take-up has been affected by poor communication, bureaucracy and stigma attached to the process.
My Healthy Start Scheme (Take-Up) Bill is attempting to change that.
Many major local, national and international organisations support my Bill, these include:
– Feeding Britain
– North East Poverty Health Alliance
– The Food Foundation
– Action on Sugar
– Action on Salt
– Action for Children
– Alexandra Rose Charity
– British Dental Association
– Christians Against Poverty
– Church Action on Poverty
– Feed UK
– First Steps National Trust
– Food Sense Wales
– Healthy Equity North
– Health Inequalities Group
– Independent Food Aid Network
– Institute of Health Visiting
– Kidney Disease UK
– Magic Breakfast
– Obesity Health Alliance
– Royal College of Midwives
– Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
– The Big Issue
– The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK)
My Healthy Start Scheme (Take-Up) Bill:
Although there are several pressing issues with the Healthy Start Scheme, including uprating the payments in line with inflation to ensure the affordability of things like baby formula, I’ve recognised that a first step would be to ensure as high as possible take-up of the scheme.
Every concession from this Tory government must be dragged kicking and screaming; so my Healthy Start Scheme Bill is designed to maximise the chances of the government accepting the issue with take-up and introduce auto-enrolment on the scheme.
My Healthy Start Scheme (Take-Up) Bill would ensure that each eligible family would have an opt-out rather than opt-in clause on their welfare applications to ensure those 200,000 mothers, babies and young children get the support they are entitled to.
My Healthy Start Scheme Bill has passed its First Reading on the floor of the House of Commons, which is normal for Private Members’ Bills, and will receive its Second Reading in November.
I intend to make sure that the Bill gives us a vehicle to keep pressure on the government until they adopt the auto-enrolment mechanism as policy.
Since the First Reading of the Bill, I’ve written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, along with several cross-party MPs and organisations, asking him to auto-enrol families on the Healthy Start Scheme as per the Bill.
We will use every tool at our disposal to keep fighting for these changes; whether that is through Parliamentary Questions, engaging with the National Audit Office, writing to Ministers or creating prospective solutions with the financial services industry.
We will keep going until the government listens.
We are always looking for more support and information pertaining to the Healthy Start Scheme. If you are an organisation wishing to support the Bill or a user of the Healthy Start Scheme wishing to share your experiences, please do not hesitate to get in touch via: email@example.com or calling 020 7219 4468.