Parents urged to give their children a Healthy Start

GIVE your children a Healthy Start in life – that’s the message being given to Liverpool parents.

Healthy Start is the national NHS-led scheme that supports eligible families to buy healthy food and milk for children under four – but over £750,000 of funding is not being claimed in Liverpool, with an estimated one in three eligible families in England missing out..

Eligible families, as well as eligible women who are at least ten weeks pregnant, can apply for a card which is topped up every four weeks with funds that can be spent on plain milk, fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, tinned or dry pulses, and infant formula. The card also allows pregnant women and parents to access free Health Start vitamins.

Payments for parents and carers, and pregnant women are worth £4.25 per week per child, or £8.50 per week during the first year of a child’s life. From pregnancy to the age of four, Healthy Start can be worth up to £1,200 to families.

The Healthy Start card can be used with any retailer that accepts Mastercard.

The card can also be used in community food spaces across Liverpool as well as the Queen of Greens mobile greengrocer.

Healthy Start vitamins which can be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding and vitamin drops for babies and young children are also available through Children’s Centres by showing the card as proof of eligibility.

In Liverpool, a Healthy Start steering group was implemented following the Feeding Liverpool report A Healthy Start for Liverpool that was launched in September 2022.

Feeding Liverpool is the city’s food alliance and sees Liverpool City Council, Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Citizens Advice Liverpool, Children’s Centres, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, and the Liverpool City Region working together to ensure good food for all

Prof Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, said: “Healthy Start is a great way of supporting families to give young children a good start in life, but take up in Liverpool and nationally is not what it should be.

“The funding can make a real difference to lower income families, particularly during the cost-of-living crisis when so many people are under financial pressure.

“Most people can quickly apply online for a Healthy Start card with just a few details. If you’re eligible please sign up, or if you know someone who you think might be able to take advantage of Healthy Start, please let them know.

“Good quality food is so important for early years development as well as during pregnancy and Healthy Start is a fantastic way of giving families a helping hand to stay well and support the best start to life that our kids need and deserve.”

Dr Naomi Maynard, director of Feeding Liverpool, said: “At Feeding Liverpool, we have spent the last year working alongside Children’s Centre staff, health professionals and families to find out how we could improve uptake of the Healthy Start Scheme in Liverpool – with many families saying they just didn’t know about it. Several of these same families are making difficult decisions each day – with rising food prices meaning they are cutting back on both the quality and quantity of healthy food in their home.

“From our conversations with families, and from my own personal experience of being supported by Healthy Start with my first child, we know it makes a massive difference. Having money set aside each week for fruit, vegetables, lentils and milk enables you to put more good food on the table, whilst the access to free vitamins helps support our youngest residents to stay healthy now and into the future.

“With more than one in three eligible families missing out on Healthy Start, I’d encourage all of us who know someone who is pregnant or has a child under four, to tell them about Healthy Start and encourage them to see if they are eligible.”

Liverpool Waterfront