More than one in four families eligible for Healthy Start vouchers and free vitamins in Cumbria do not apply for them according to the latest figures.
Data provided by Healthy Start shows just 2234 eligible families have taken advantage of the scheme, out of a possible 3048 (73%).
Healthy Start is an NHS-backed scheme administered by Cumbria County Council and is designed to ensure all children receive the basic food and vitamins they need to give them the best start in life.
Eligible families in Cumbria are being encouraged to make sure they apply for the scheme if they haven’t already – as they could receive regular supplies of free vitamins as well as help with the cost of essential food and milk.
The Healthy Start scheme has two elements to it. The first element is a prepaid card worth up to £8.50 per week to spend on fresh produce such as cow’s milk, fresh, frozen, or tinned fruit and vegetables, infant formula milk and fresh, dried, and tinned pulses.
To be eligible for the Healthy Start prepaid card, you must be more than 10 weeks pregnant or have parental responsibility for at least one child under four years old, and be in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit (but only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment)
You’re also eligible for the Healthy Start scheme if you’re pregnant and under 18, even if you do not receive any benefits.
The second element of the scheme offers free vitamins to pregnant women and mothers for up to six months after birth (if breastfeeding or dual feeding) as well as vitamin drops for children up until the age of four. Vitamins for pregnant women will initially be distributed by Midwives and Health Visitors during their early visits.
All families in Cumbria with children under the age of two will be able to collect children’s vitamin drops from many community venues across the county- and it can be a different venue each time you need to pick up a new supply. Families with children aged between 2-4 years will be able to collect their supply from the same community venues using their Healthy Start pre-paid card.
Each bottle of children’s vitamin drops and women’s vitamin supplements contain 8 weeks supply.
To find out more about Cumbria’s Healthy Start Scheme, how to apply for a Healthy Start pre-paid card and which community venues you can collect vitamins from, visit the Cumbria County Council website.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said:
“We know that in Cumbria there are many families who are eligible for this scheme who have not yet taken it up. I encourage all parents and parents-to-be to check their eligibility online.
“The Healthy Start scheme is there to help give children the best start in life and having access to free fresh produce will make a huge difference to families and support a healthier lifestyle.
“We are pleased to be able to offer free Healthy Start vitamins to pregnant and new mums and children which provide important nutrients for growth and development.
“The vitamins for children contain vitamins A, C and D. The vitamins for pregnant and breastfeeding women contain folic acid and vitamins C and D. Vitamin D is important for the development of healthy bones and teeth.”
If you’re struggling with the rise in the cost of living, visit cumbria.gov.uk/costofliving to find out how to access a range of advice and support.