Yesterday, my Healthy Start Scheme Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons. The Bill seeks to auto-enrol the 200,000 eligible pregnant women, babies and young children who are currently missing out on the NHS scheme that provides them with a pre-paid card in order to buy vital nutritional foodstuffs such as baby formula, milk, fruit and vegetables.
Joined by cross-party MPs and a multitude of supporting organisations, I presented the Bill to the Government along with a letter to the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, urging him to use the data and funding he already has to ensure that all of those that are covered by the scheme are getting the money assigned for them. Changing the system to an opt-out rather than an opt-in process will avoid the off-putting bureaucracy, stigma and hidden costs associated with the scheme.
Considering only 2 out of 533 constituencies in England are currently hitting targets for take-up of the scheme, the auto-enrolment proposed by my Bill will go some way to alleviate some of the crippling poverty suffered by children and families in our country, and is a simple but effective step on the road to supporting the most vulnerable during this Tory cost-of-living crisis.
I hope the Government will listen and take action, but will continue to fight for our children if they sit on their hands.