Thousands of families missing out on free cash to spend in supermarkets – how to claim now | The Sun

THOUSANDS of families are missing out on free money to help pay for food, worth hundreds of pounds a year.

Around 143,000 families eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme in March this year failed to make a claim.

Families eligible for help through the scheme now get prepaid cards to spend at a range of supermarkets and shops, replacing vouchers.

Healthy Start offers money to low-income families with small children to help pay for milk, vegetables, fruit and more.

But the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 350 councils in England and Wales, said around one in three people who can get the cash are not claiming.

It also noted areas with higher levels of poverty are seeing a lower take up in the scheme.

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It comes as the LGA published a five-point plan calling on government to make changes to ensure families can access the scheme.

Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Every year millions of pounds of vital Healthy Start vouchers go unclaimed and families miss out on free fruit, vegetables and milk."

The LGA's five-point plan for Healthy Food Vouchers is calling for an increase in the value of Healthy Start Vouchers in line with the current rate of inflation.

That would mean the weekly payments going from £4.25 to £4.67 and £8.50 to £9.35.

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It is also calling for the expansion of the scheme to include all families on Universal Credit.

You currently only get help if you're on Universal Credit and not earning any money or are earning money, but £408 or less per family per month after tax.

Thirdly, it is calling for the age eligibility for the scheme to be increased for children up to five. The current maximum age is four.

Fourthly, it wants the scheme to become automated so that eligible families are automatically enrolled. As it stands, families have to apply for the scheme.

And lastly, the LGA is calling for the government to start an awareness raising campaign to promote the Healthy Start Scheme.

What is the Healthy Start scheme and how do I claim?

The Healthy Start scheme offers out prepaid food cards to women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or women or men who have children under four.

They typically must also be on certain benefits, including:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family.

However, if you are under 18 and pregnant you can get the money, even if you don't receive any of the above benefits.

Families that qualify get £4.25 a week per child or double that depending on how old the child is.

For example, if your child is younger than 12 months old, you get £8.50 each week.

So in the first year of your child's life you could get £442.

Women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant get £4.25 a week, and it's the same amount for each child between one and four.

That amounts to £221 a year.

The food cards can be spent at any location that accepts Mastercard.

That means you can use it at supermarkets, markets, petrol stations, butcher shops and more.

Some supermarkets which are part of the scheme include Tesco, Iceland and Aldi.

The cards can only be used for foods including:

  • plain liquid cow’s milk
  • fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
  • infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

You can apply via email or phone on [email protected] or 0300 330 7010. You can also apply online here.

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To complete the application, you'll need your name, address, date of birth, National Insurance (NI) number, baby's due date (if you're pregnant) and a benefit aware letter, if you're over 18.

It comes after Sainsbury's said it would provide those eligible for Healthy Start an extra £2 a week to spend up until April next year in the cost of living crisis.

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