3,000 Suffolk mums missing out on food vouchers - here's how to find out if you are eligible

Tins of food on a shelf

Healthy Start vouchers can be used towards certain items such as fruit and vegetables for eligible families - Credit: Archant

Low income families of young children eligible for vouchers to help with their food shop have been urged to take up the scheme, after data indicated more than 3,000 Suffolk mums were eligible but not claiming them.

The Healthy Start vouchers can be used to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and  formula milk to "provide crucial access to healthy food for those who need it most: qualifying pregnant women, babies and toddlers".

Data for Suffolk indicated that there were 5,664 eligible families but just 2,559 - 45% - had made use of them, leaving 3,105 families eligible but not claiming them.

As part of a national campaign by the Co-operative Party, Suffolk's Labour group councillors have urged those eligible to make use of the vouchers.

Councillor Jack Abbott, spokesman for children’s services and education at Suffolk County Council's opposition Labour group, said: “This is such an incredibly tough time for a lot of people, with another national lockdown making things even harder. That’s why it’s so crucial that we raise awareness of Healthy Start vouchers, so that people who need the support can find it.

Suffolk county councillor Jack Abbott praised Marcus Rashford's campaign. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Councillor Jack Abbott, spokesman for children’s services and education at Suffolk County Council's opposition Labour group - Credit: Archant

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“The uptake of Healthy Start vouchers in Suffolk is below the national average and the number of eligible people who use the scheme has dramatically fallen in recent years, so it’s clear that more needs to be done to highlight the existence of these vouchers.

“Applying is relatively straightforward and you can redeem the vouchers in many supermarkets and other retailers including Sainsbury's, the East of England Co-op and Boots.

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“For a young family, these vouchers can help provide things like milk - including infant formula milk - fruit, vegetables and pulses, so if you think you might be eligible and need additional support, I would really urge you to apply for Healthy Start.”

The Labour group said take up of the vouchers locally had dropped from 69% in 2015, with the latest Suffolk data below the 51% take-up rate nationally.

People can qualify for the vouchers if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four-years-old and receive:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (only for those 10 weeks or more pregnant until birth)

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

  • Pension Credit; or

  • Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family

Those under 18 and pregnant also qualify, regardless of whether they receive any of the benefits above.

Suffolk County Council has also pointed to its phone service, Suffolk Advice and Support Service Helpline (SASS) where families can get advice on support schemes open to them.

Contact SASS on 0800 068 3131 for support, and visit the Healthy Start website here for more information and to find out if you qualify for the Healthy Start vouchers.

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