Healthy Start is a UK-wide government public health scheme that provides a nutritional safety net for pregnant women, new mums and young children in very low-income families. It supports them at one of the most important times in their lives, helping them to eat healthily and develop good habits for the future. Retailers can register to accept Healthy Start vouchers, and so play a vital role in delivering the scheme in their local communities.
What can Healthy Start vouchers be used to buy?
- Plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. The cow’s milk can be pasteurised, sterilised, long-life or UHT.
- Plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg – whole or chopped, packaged or loose.
- Infant formula milk that says on the packet that it can be used from birth (and is based on cow’s milk).
Accepting the vouchers
Only registered retailers can accept and claim payment for Healthy Start vouchers. To find out more about registering for the scheme, and more detailed guidance on the rules, visit the Healthy Start retailer reimbursement unit website or call 0844 991 22 22. Retailers should not accept Healthy Start vouchers before their registration is confirmed, as they cannot claim payment for them.
Some basics about the scheme
- To register for the scheme, a retailer must sell at least one of the Healthy Start foods (listed above).
- Vouchers can only be accepted towards the cost of one or more of these foods.
- Customers are allowed to use more than one voucher at a time, as long as all of the vouchers they wish to spend are within their use-by date.
- Retailers must give Healthy Start foods to the full value of each voucher – they must not give change.
- Retailers cannot charge customers any handling fee for accepting the vouchers.
- Retailers must not pass vouchers on to another retailer – they must be sent directly to the Healthy Start retailer reimbursement unit for payment, along with a completed claim form.
- Retailers are paid by BACS and must ensure that the Healthy Start retailer reimbursement unit always has their correct bank account details.
Healthy Start vitamins
Families who receive Healthy Start vouchers are also sent green coupons, which they can exchange locally for Healthy Start branded women’s and children’s vitamins. It is the responsibility of NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities in England, trusts and health boards in Scotland and Wales, and the Business Services Organisation in Northern Ireland to make the vitamins available. If a customer asks you about the vitamins and you do not have an arrangement to supply them on behalf of one of these organisations, please advise them to contact their midwife or health visitor to find out where they can use their vitamin coupons.
Compliance with scheme rules
This is a publicly funded scheme and so non-compliance with scheme rules by either retailers or families receiving Healthy Start vouchers is taken very seriously. Retailers found to be breaking the rules may have payments for vouchers withheld, may be removed from the scheme permanently, and may be prosecuted.
If you think someone is breaking the rules of Healthy Start you can report it to the Healthy Start helpline in confidence – call 0845 607 6823 or use our online form to report any retailer that is not accepting the vouchers in the way that they should, or is accepting them when not registered to do so.