iHV joins a large coalition of charities, led by Sustain and The Food Foundation, and including Royal College of Midwives and Royal Society of Public Health, to send a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, asking him for urgent action on the Healthy Start scheme. He is being asked to extend the paper vouchers while the digital scheme is fixed.
The rising cost of living is adding more pressure to families in the UK already struggling to afford and access an adequate diet. On average, each month, 8% of households did not have enough money for food over the financial year 2019-20 according to the Government’s UK Food Security Report. Food insecurity levels in households with children remain extremely high. According to data from the Food Foundation, over 2.5 million children live in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past six months.
Against this backdrop, the Healthy Start scheme plays a vital role in supporting low-income young families and pregnant mothers to eat well. However, there are concerns about the roll-out of the digitisation of the scheme. These concerns have been raised repeatedly with officials at the NHS Business Services and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) but the problems have not been rectified and time is running out before paper vouchers are removed from circulation on 31 March 2022.
The digitisation of Healthy Start can help to reduce access barriers if managed properly and with a clear understanding of the circumstances of those it is targeting. However, without urgent action, hundreds of thousands of families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are at risk of losing the nutritional safety net provided by