Families in need are missing out on free food vouchers

Liberal Democrats in Oldham have warned that “thousands of eligible families” are missing out on the governments ‘Healthy Start’ voucher.

The vouchers are for pregnant women and families with children aged under four who are on Universal Credit. They can be used to buy milk, infant formula, fruit, vegetables, and pulses. But analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed that 150,000 eligible households are currently missing out on support.

Howard Sykes MBE

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader councillor Howard Sykes MBE said, “Every year millions of pounds of vital Healthy Start vouchers go unclaimed and families miss out on free fruit, vegetables, and milk. With money tight for so many families right now, the government can and must do more to improve the uptake on this scheme.”

“One of the main barriers in deprived communities is access to the internet. With the government moving towards digital vouchers this will lock many people out of receiving support. Had the government bothered to work with councils, this sort of mistake could have been avoided. The government must give council’s more data on the roll out of this scheme so that local leaders can share expertise.”

People can apply online: https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/how-to-apply/

The Liberal Democrat Leader also hit out at the government’s decision not to uprate the vouchers to reflect rises in food prices.

Councillor Sykes said, “The cost of staple items such as milk and tomatoes rising from between 21 and 47 per cent since prices were set for the vouchers in April 2021. The whole purpose of these vouchers is to support those who are most vulnerable to price hikes. The government must look again and increase the value of the vouchers in line with inflation.”

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