Struggling local families missing out on thousands of pounds

Government vouchers worth over £900 per child to support families are unclaimed in city

by Emily O’Brien, Project manager for Food Poverty Action Plan

Many families in the city are struggling to eat well, with some desperate parents skipping meals to feed their children, our research for the Brighton & Hove Food Poverty Action Plan[i] revealed.

For families on a tight budget, one of the biggest barriers to eating well is the cost of healthy food including fruit and veg, yet there are literally thousands of pounds in Government support going unclaimed in the city.

Healthy Start Voucher campaign imageHealthy Start vouchers (based on the old ‘milk vouchers’) help low income families on certain benefits,[ii] who are either pregnant or have children under four, to buy milk, or fresh or frozen fruit and veg.  The vouchers plus free vitamins add up to over £900 per child if someone signs up at the first opportunity, when they are ten weeks pregnant. Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children’s centres are launching a campaign to increase uptake – and we need your help.

We are asking all community and voluntary groups, food banks, and housing, childcare, social care and health and other professionals who work with children or families to make sure their staff and volunteers understand how to promote the vouchers.

Organisations can order application packs for free from https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/for-health-professionals/ or by calling 0300 123 1002 and asking for “HS01”.  Please also display a free local poster. Just call 01273 431700 or email to let us know how many posters you want, and your address. All of the current retailers in Brighton & Hove can be located on this map.

We are also urging anyone who might be eligible to apply. There is no penalty if you apply but are not eligible, the Government will just let you know. The easiest thing to do is to walk into your local children’s centre[iii].  They can give you a form, help you fill it in, and sign and send it for you.

Or look online to see if you qualify or call 0345 607 6823. You can apply online but you will need to print off the form to get it signed by a health professional, for example a GP, midwife or health visitor. Health professionals only need to sign the forms to say that someone is pregnant or has a child under four, they do not need to know anything about your income or circumstances.

For more suggestions for families struggling to eat well on a budget, including information on free school meals and Chomp, the school holiday lunch club[iv], see the Food Partnership website.

Together we can play our part in ending food poverty in Brighton & Hove.

[i] Brighton & Hove Food Poverty Action Plan is a three year action plan with over 50 partner and 75 actions aimed at tackling food poverty in the city. Download the Food Poverty Action Plan 2015-18.

[ii] Healthy Start Vouchers are worth at least £3.10 per week, double if the child is aged under one year, to spend on milk, or fresh or frozen fruit and veg.  You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get:

·         Income Support, or

·         Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or

·         Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or

·         Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year)

·         Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month)

You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.

[iii] There is a list of children’s centres on the council’s website.

[iv] Chomp is a scheme which runs during the school holidays, where children and their families, who usually rely on free school meals, can enjoy a free healthy meal and fun activity.

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