Cornwall Council is urging local families to check if they are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.
With Healthy Start, families get free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, and infant formula milk. They can also get free vitamins.
The number of families eligible has increased by approximately 30% through the pandemic but take up of the scheme in Cornwall does not yet reflect that, with about half of eligible families currently claiming the voucher for fruit and veg and just 2% of those that are eligible collecting the vitamins.
Cabinet Member for Children, Wellbeing and Public Health, Sally Hawken, said: “The impact of the pandemic on families has been profound and I would urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to get in touch.
“The scheme can be worth up to £900 per child over their first four years of life and add at least £3.10 to a family shop per-child per-week, but this will raise to £4.25 in April following the campaign by the England Footballer Marcus Rashford.”
“Under the scheme, along with a voucher, families are also entitled to claim vitamins, which include Vitamin D; the Vitamins are a great way to supplement someone’s diet and the benefits can be huge.”
Healthy Start vitamins contain vitamins A, C and D for children aged from birth to four years, and folic acid and vitamins C and D for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Healthy Start vitamins are important because 8% of children under five in the UK don’t have enough vitamin A in their diet and families in lower-income groups tend to have less vitamin C in their diet.
Public Health England issued advice at the start of the pandemic, urging everyone to take vitamin D daily because of lockdown and people spending more time indoors. Evidence also suggest that we should all be taking vitamin D between October and April, because of the shorter days; this includes breastfed babies from birth and formula fed babies when they have less than 500ml of formula a day.
The vitamins are available to exchange for vouchers in pharmacies across Cornwall with a network of 30 across the county, supported by the Local Pharmacy Committee.
To qualify a family must be on job seekers allowance, income support or in receipt of other qualifying benefits, which is about 4331 people in Cornwall. Every eight weeks families are sent a green vitamin voucher, which they can swap for either Healthy Start women’s vitamin tablets or Healthy Start children’s drops in pharmacies across Cornwall.
Sally Hawken added: “A healthy balanced diet is essential and the fruit, vegetables and vitamins that this scheme provides helps children as they grow. I would urge anyone who uses the vouchers, already to take up the free vitamins and anyone on these benefits to speak to their health visitor or midwife to see if they qualify.”
To qualify you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get:
Income Support, or
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year)
Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month)
You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.
Families who need to know more information can discover more by discussing with their midwife, health visitor, local family hub or online at the Healthy Cornwall Website or on the NHS website.