Nearly 3 in 4 eligible families signed up to Healthy Start in Blackpool
Blackpool bucks the national trend in number of low-income families signed up to the milk, fruit and veg scheme, after an awareness campaign sees nearly a 10% lift in uptake in the last 12 months.
Children with fruit. Credit: Claire Griffiths Photography
Blackpool is in the top four local areas with the highest levels of Healthy Start uptake. 72% of eligible families in Blackpool have signed up to and are receiving payments to help them buy fruit, vegetables, milk and formula. The uplift in uptake - nearly 10% in the last 12 months - follows a campaign by Blackpool Better Start to raise awareness of the scheme and to help parents access the support
The scheme has been blighted with issues since moving from paper vouchers to digital prepaid cards in March 2022, and NHS data at the time showed almost a third of the more than half a million households (155,000) eligible for the scheme were not claiming the support.
Data from the NHS showed that Blackpool was below the national average for uptake of this scheme in 2022. Families found the application forms complicated and were unable to claim despite meeting the criteria, according to findings from the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, the Better Start Partnership in Blackpool made up of the Local Authority, Clinical Commissioning Group, Blackpool Hospital Teaching Trust, Police and the Community. According to the centre, an alarming number of families weren’t aware that they qualified for this support.
To better support families access the scheme, Blackpool Better Start created and trained team members in the role of ‘Money Saving Community Connector’ over the summer of 2022. By holding weekly ‘Cost-of-Living Drop-Ins’ in the community, the Money Saving Connectors have been able to speak to families, advise them on their benefit entitlement, and help them complete forms. At the same time videos were launched on social media to signpost parents to the scheme’s website and address commonly asked questions. A targeted email was sent to 1,600 eligible families to help raise awareness of the scheme.
Clare Law, Director of the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development said:
“We will continue to raise awareness of the scheme through our social media and digital channels, and we will continue to support the community through our Cost-of-Living Drop-ins, as the combination of the two will hopefully enable us to sign-up more parents to the scheme in the future.”
Blackpool’s Director of Public Health, Dr Arif Rajpura, said:
“This new data is very promising, and now that we have it, it’s important that we use it identify the 630 families in the town who are still not claiming Healthy Start benefits. Not only will this help with family household bills, but on average each of these families is missing out on at least £220 a year, and that equates to approximately £140,000 that could be injected into the local economy.”
An open letter from the Association of Directors of Public Health, supported by Sustain, has recently asked the government to expand the number of pregnant women and families with a child under four who are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme by extending eligibility to all families on universal credit who have a young child.
Currently, the scheme is available to universal credit claimants who earn £408 or less a month and child tax credit claimants with an annual income of £16,190 or less. People on legacy benefits including income support, jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit and working tax credit can also claim.
The Healthy Start scheme is worth £4.25 for each week of pregnancy from 10 weeks, then £8.50 a week for babies up to one year old, and £4.25 a week for children up to four years old.
Sustain and the Food Foundation, supported by frontline organisations are calling for improvements to the scheme and for the benefit to be increased in line with inflation, as recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that food and non-alcoholic beverages prices rose by 16.4% in the 12 months to October 2022. Analysis by First Steps Nutrition Trust, between August 2021 and November 2022, shows that the cost of infant formula has increased by as much as 23% – more than double the average increase in food prices. The current Healthy Start allowance is now not enough to cover the full cost of any infant formulas on the market.
For more information please contact Hannah Connell hannah.cecd[at]nspcc.org.uk or check the Blackpool Better Start website