Wirral MP supports call for automatic enrolment for NHS Healthy Start scheme

Margaret Greenwood MP is supporting calls for the government to automatically enrol every family eligible for the NHS Healthy Start scheme to ensure that every child has the best possible start in life.  

She is also urging pregnant women and the parents of young children to check whether they are eligible to claim the NHS Healthy Start provision so that they can benefit from the additional nutrition that it can provide that is so important during pregnancy and early years. 

The Wirral West MP was in the House of Commons this week as the Healthy Start Scheme (Take-Up) Bill was introduced by her Labour colleague Emma Lewell-Buck MP.  

The Healthy Start scheme is a lifeline for many pregnant women and families with young children, providing healthy fruit, vegetables, milk and vitamins which are vital to a child’s development, as well as their mental and physical health.  

However, take up of the scheme in March 2023 was just 64%, while in some areas it was as low as 50%. This came despite the government having previously set a target to reach 75% of those eligible applying for the support.  

It is calculated that over 200,000 babies, children and pregnant mothers are missing out on £53 million worth of nutritious food.  

As well as the bill – a 10 Minute Rule Bill which is unlikely to become law, but is a way of drawing attention to issues that MPs feel require a change in the law – a group of 41 cross-party MPs, including Margaret Greenwood, have signed a letter to the government’s Secretary of State for Health asking him to consider adopting the proposal.  

27 organisations including Action for Children, the Food Foundation and the Royal College of Midwives have also co-signed the letter.    

The letter argues that the government knows which families are missing out on the Healthy Start scheme, but that it is failing to come up with a solution to ensure that they are registered.  

Automatic enrolment, the letter argues, would widen take-up and reach those who do not know they are eligible. Families would be able to opt out of the scheme if they wished.  

Margaret Greenwood MP said, “I fully support the Healthy Start Scheme Bill that has been put forward by my colleague Emma Lewell-Buck and I pay tribute to her for her tireless campaigning on this issue.  

“It is quite shocking that take up of the scheme is so low and that so many families are missing out on vital support that they are entitled to.  

“Food poverty is pushing many families to the edge and some parents are struggling to feed their children as well as they would like to.  

“The government should be doing more to increase take up of the scheme and Emma Lewell-Buck’s bill provides a solution to that.   

“The bill has received cross-party support and the government should back it.  

“In the meantime, I would urge pregnant women and those with young children to check if they are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.”  

You can check if you are eligible for the scheme by visiting this link: https://www.gov.uk/healthy-start  

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