Martin Lewis MSE: almost 200,000 parents are missing out on £442 help with cost of living

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Martin Lewis and his team at the Money Saving Expert says that low-income families can get up to £8.50 per child each week to spend on groceries

Martin Lewis’ MSE has revealed that more than 189,000 parents and pregnant women are missing out on help with food costs.

The help comes via a Government scheme known as Healthy Start that few people are aware of. Those who are eligible could be entitled to up to £442 per year.

New and expectant parents and parents of young children, who are receiving various benefits including Universal Credit, might be able to receive the money which can then be used to buy groceries and vitamins in most UK supermarkets.

So What Is The Healthy Start Scheme?

Healthy Start is an NHS initiative that provides pregnant women and children under 4 with food & vitamins.

If you qualify, you can apply for a Healthy Start card, which is essentially a pre-paid card with up to £8.50 per child per week.

This money can be spent in UK shops on certain healthy products including fruit & veg, milk, formula milk, pulses and vitamins for babies and young children and to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The balance is topped up every 4 weeks.

How Do I Know If I Am I eligible?

This scheme is available for low-income expecting parents who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or families who have at least one child under 4 years old.

If you claim the following benefits, you could apply:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit – but only if you claim the child element
  • Child Tax Credit – as long as your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less and you do not get Working Tax Credit.
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Universal Credit – but only if your family’s monthly ‘take-home pay’ is £408 or less from employment.

Or if;

  • You claim income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) and you’re over 10 weeks pregnant;
  • You or your partner get working tax credit ‘run on’ only – the tax credit you get in the four weeks immediately after you’ve stopped working for 16 hours or more a week.
  • You’re under 18 and pregnant

This scheme is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you’re in Scotland you may be entitled to help from Best Start Foods instead.

How & Where Do I Apply?

The best place to start is online via the NHS website.

Have some of your information to hand as you’ll need to input some personal details including your name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, your baby’s due date and your benefit award letter if you’re over 18.

If you get Child Tax Credit, you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant and have other children who are all aged 4+, you’ll have to apply by either emailing or calling 0300 330 7010.

How much will I get?

Every 4 weeks, the money will be added to your card automatically and you will receive:

  • £4.25 if you’re pregnant for each week from the 10th week onwards
  • £4.25 each week for children aged between 1 and 4
  • £8.50 per week for children from birth to age 1

(The money will stop when your child turns 4 or you’re no longer eligible for your benefits.)

What Can I Buy With The Card?

The card is for healthy items including:

  • Fruit and vegetables: fresh, frozen, tinned, fruit in fruit juice, dried, tinned pulses – but not with added salt, oil, fat and flavourings from some tinned items, smoothies or fruits in syrup
  • Cow’s milk: this doesn’t include flavoured milk, plant-based milk or powdered milk – unless it’s stage one infant formula)
  • Infant formula: which is labelled as suitable from birth and made from cow’s milk – not follow-on formula or milk.
  • Free vitamins: The NHS website recommends to ask your midwife or health visitor where you can get the free vitamins.

Where can the Healthy Start card be used?

The card can be used in shops that accepts Mastercard® which will include most supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies.

You CAN’T use the card online, outside of the UK (including the Republic of Ireland), on your phone’s wallet app, or to withdraw cash.

How Do I Use The Card?

After receiving your card through the post, you will need to activate it by calling the 24/7 service on 0300 330 2090 to receive your pin.

Following activation, you will be able to make contactless payments with the card.

You use the card like any other debit card and you can also use it as part-payment on your grocery shop, for example, if you want to use a set amount of your Healthy Start balance and also pay some of your bill with cash.

Some shops might say this needs to be as separate transactions though, and at self-checkout machines, the Government says you can only split payments between your Healthy Start card and cash, not another bank/debit card.


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