A new prepaid card will replace the current Healthy Start paper vouchers available to help families with their grocery bills if they have young children and are on a low income.
The paper vouchers will no longer be accepted after 31 March so families will need to apply for the scheme’s new digital card before that date. If they don’t switch to the online system by 31 March this year, they could lose out.
Those who are already signed up for Healthy Start paper vouchers should also receive an NHS letter with information about applying for the digital prepaid card.
If you’re not already a Healthy Start beneficiary, but you’re receiving a qualifying benefit and are pregnant or have parental responsibility for at least one child under the age of 4, you can apply online now.
The new scheme will mean parents and carers can use their cards anywhere that accepts Mastercard and sells the eligible healthy start food items, such as fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh or formula milk and vitamins.
Any money not spent will remain on the card and can be put towards future purchases – this is unlike the current paper voucher scheme where £4.25 or over must be spent in one transaction.
The new digital card means its users will be able to check the balance which helps with money management and payments. It will be automatically topped up every four weeks with the payment meaning families do not need to wait for the vouchers to arrive in the post.
Councillor Wendy Clements said, “As a council, we are pleased to promote the NHS’s Healthy Start scheme which aims to support families on low incomes with extra cash for healthy eating. We are encouraging parents and carers who receive free NHS Healthy Start paper vouchers to buy fruit, vegetables and vitamins for their children to apply in time before the change comes in.”
For those who do not have access to a computer or smartphone to apply, an application form can be requested from the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823.
To check if you are eligible for the scheme and to apply online to receive the digital card see healthystart.nhs.uk/how-to-apply/