UK Credit

Thousands can benefit from the Universal Credit Healthy Start program to get free food

Thousands of families may be cut off from a program that can help with the cost of food.

With the UK’s cost of living crisis putting pressure on household budgets as food and energy prices rise, there is heightened interest in any help available.

We recently highlighted the possibilities of getting British Gas grants of up to £750 or capping water bills. Another option is to check if you are eligible for the Healthy Start program.

READ MORE: 10 everyday items whose prices rise the most as the cost of living rises

What is the Healthy Start program?

This is a support scheme provided by the NHS which provides free healthy food and milk to people who meet certain criteria, such as being on Universal Credit.

It used to come in the form of Healthy Start paper vouchers that could be used in shops, but that option ended on January 31 and it’s now a prepaid card.

If you qualify, you get:

  • £4.25 per week of pregnancy from week 10
  • £8.50 per week for children from birth to 1 year old
  • £4.25 per week for children between 1 and 4 years old

If you are deemed eligible, you receive a Healthy Start card containing cash which you can use in selected UK stores. The above amounts are added to the card every four weeks.

The card can be used to purchase:

  • plain liquid cow’s milk
  • fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables
  • fresh, dried and canned legumes
  • infant formula made from cow’s milk

You can also use your card to collect:

  • Healthy Start vitamins to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • vitamin drops for babies and toddlers – suitable from birth to four years

In Scotland a similar initiative called Best Start Foods is run instead and you can read more about it here

Who is eligible?

To qualify for a Health Start card, you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under the age of four.

Additionally, you must receive one of the following DWP benefits:

  • Child tax credit (only if your annual family income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income support
  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension credit (which includes the addition of the child)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family’s take home pay is £408 or less per month from employment – check ‘take home pay for this period’ on your monthly Universal Credit award notice.)
  • Employment and Income Support Benefit (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit – if you, your partner or caregiver are on Working Tax Credit (WTC), you are only eligible for Healthy Start if you are under 18 and pregnant or if you only get the WTC for four weeks. WTC run-on is what you receive within four weeks immediately after stopping work for 16 hours or more per week.

Anyone unable to register the birth of their child should approach HMRC or the DWP to ensure they are included in your benefit claim so that a Healthy Start payment can be issued.

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As an exception to the above, you will also be eligible for Healthy Start if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you are not claiming any benefits.

In this case you should call 0300 330 7010 and provide your baby’s due date, a copy of your birth certificate, your NHS number and your national insurance number.

After the birth of your baby, you will only continue to be eligible for Healthy Start if you receive eligible benefits or tax credits. To ensure you continue to receive Healthy Start vouchers after your baby is born, you must:

  • call Healthy Start on 0300 330 7010
  • apply for child tax credits as soon as possible
  • notify Universal Credit by updating your online account
  • reapply online and reapply

If you don’t, your Healthy Start payments will stop four weeks after your baby’s due date.

How to apply for Healthy Start

To apply, you will need your:

  • Last name
  • address
  • Date of Birth
  • national insurance number
  • due date if you are pregnant)
  • benefit award letter if you are over 18 (you must enter the same information as on this letter)

If you are currently receiving paper vouchers for Healthy Start, these will stop once you complete the online application. You can still use your Healthy Start vouchers until they expire.

Apply for Healthy Start through the NHS website application page here

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