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
Healthy Start.

NHS Business Services Authority is working with on a Department of Health & Social Care project to improve the Healthy Start scheme and is looking for some health visitors to interview about their role and experience.

Healthy Start provides vouchers for pregnant women, children, parents and families in receipt of qualifying benefits to buy fruit, veg, milk and vitamins. The scheme currently uses paper-based vouchers, however they intend to trial the use of prepaid cards and an online application process.

An important part of this project involves talking to healthcare professionals that help promote the scheme – so they are looking for some health visitors to interview. To do this they conduct telephone calls, which last around 30mins. The call is carried out by their researchers, it’s an informal chat to find out more about your role and your experience of promoting the Healthy Start scheme.

They are looking to do the research calls next week between  Monday 24 and Thursday 27 June. They are flexible on the day and times.

If you are able to help by taking part, simply email [email protected] with the details below:

  • Your availability (give day and preferred times)
  • Your role
  • How long you have been in your role?
  • Do you currently promote Healthy Start with the families you see?