IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Healthy Start is a benefit going to waste – spread the word

12 February, 2021

• AT a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet it is obviously important that they access all available help.

One, admittedly modest, benefit that is going to waste is Healthy Start. Under it, vouchers and free vitamins are available to parents of under-4s and mums-to-be on certain benefits or universal credit.

But a quarter of eligible parents are not claiming them, mostly because they’ve not heard of them.

Application forms can be downloaded online, but should also be available from midwives, health visitors and GPs.

I called into a couple of GP surgeries to ask the receptionists if they offered the forms to likely candidates. I was met with blank looks. They hadn’t heard of them either.

Recently at my local greengrocer I saw a young dad, a pre-school child clutching each hand, ask if they accepted the vouchers. The answer was simple if unhelpful: “we don’t take any vouchers”.

Fortunately, by then I had discovered that Tesco took them and was able to send the embarrassed and downcast dad in the right direction.

So who else takes them? The government website indicates fewer than half a dozen shops in my area accept them. Personal enquiries at 10 of the small shops on our doorstep revealed only one that had heard of them.

Islington Council does highlight the scheme and provides information and links on the council website so people can apply, but I fear this is a benefit going to waste because of ignorance.

Please help spread the word to young parents and encourage shops to take the vouchers. Useful literature and application forms are available at: healthystart.nhs.uk or via Healthy Start helpline 0345 607 6823 and asking them to send one to you by post.

Hard-up parents need all the help they can get in these times, even if it is a few pounds per week.

DAVID BREWERTON
Islington Green Party

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