The Healthy Start Vouchers working group (involving representatives from the Midwifery teams, DCC Welfare Rights, CAB, NHS and Public Health) reported a significant increase in uptake this winter, making County Durham one of the top 5% Local Authority areas nationally. The scheme is now going digital which we hope will help even more families access this benefit.
Healthy Start Vouchers are a means-tested benefit that can be spent on milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, and infant formula milk. Claimants can also get free vitamins. The working group was established through the Healthy Weight Alliance after a campaign led by Sustain to increase their uptake nationally. Since we started working together on this issue (including producing clear information and training public-facing staff), uptake has increased by 16.5% and the gap between those eligible and those actually claiming has fallen. Durham is now among the top 5% of local authority areas for uptake, which really is something to be proud of.
The digital scheme offers a prepaid card to those applying for Healthy Start instead of paper vouchers. The card will be automatically topped up every 4 weeks. Sustain have published a blog with lots of information here. We hope the new system will be more accessible for families, and easier for suppliers which can include supermarkets, shops, markets and community pantries. Existing claimants will need to register for the digital system and should have received a letter but you can find all the information you need here and anyone experiencing difficulties applying can contact the Welfare Advice team at Durham County Council who will be happy to help over the phone.