The Healthy Start scheme’s digital transition has seen families left without the support they need this Christmas.
The scheme supports those on low incomes who are pregnant or have young children. Vouchers are provided that can be spent on fruit, vegetables, milk, infant formula and vitamins. But the Government has been repeatedly letting people down with this scheme.
Healthy Start is in the process of moving from a paper-based to a digital Mastercard system. Whilst this move is supposed to make the vouchers more accessible, families are reporting delays in getting support. According to our friends at Sustain, some families have had to wait so long on the phone – over an hour and 20 minutes in one case – that they have given up. And it is completely unacceptable that phone lines have call charges, which could see families paying £33 as they navigate the queuing system.
Beyond this, people are faced with weeks of delays in receiving the digital voucher cards, without any paper vouchers being provided to fill the gap. In some cases, eligible families have been rejected by the online application entirely.
We call on the Government to remove all call charges and to ensure nobody entitled to the vouchers misses out on them this Christmas. We also call for the extension of the scheme to all families in receipt of universal credit, as recommended in the National Food Strategy.