Get help to buy food and milk (Healthy Start)

The new Healthy Start Scheme

How is Healthy Start changing?

We’re launching a digital scheme that offers a prepaid card to those applying for Healthy Start instead of paper vouchers. This card will be topped up every 4 weeks with your payment.

When can I apply for the new scheme and when will I get my prepaid card?

If you’re a Healthy Start beneficiary on the paper voucher scheme, you’ll be contacted when you can apply for the digital scheme. We’ll send you a letter or another leaflet which you will receive within your voucher pack.  

When will I be told to apply?

We’re aiming to start rolling out the invitation process Autumn 2021 to current Healthy Start beneficiaries on the paper voucher scheme. You’ll be contacted to let you know when and how to apply online to the new Healthy Start scheme. 

How do I apply for the new scheme and to get the prepaid card?

When you’re invited to apply online, you’ll need to go to the Healthy Start Website (opens in a new tab) and complete an online application form.

What if I do not want to apply for the prepaid card?

The paper voucher scheme will be coming to an end. If you do not reapply to the new Healthy Start scheme online, your benefit for you and your children will stop. You can continue to use your paper vouchers until their expiry date. 

Why do I have to reapply online?

The Healthy Start scheme is a new service so we’ll need to ensure we have the most up to date and accurate information to process your application.

What are the benefits of moving to the prepaid card option?

The benefits of moving to the new scheme include: 

  • a quicker decision on your application
  • you can use your card anywhere that has a chip and pin machine and sells the eligible healthy start food items
  • you’ll be able to keep the change, unlike the current voucher scheme where you must spend £4.25 or over in one transaction
  • you can save your money for more items
  • the card is discreet
  • you can check your balance which helps with money management 
  • your payment will be automatically added to your card – you do not need to wait for your vouchers to arrive in the post

Who will be eligible to apply for the new Healthy Start scheme?

The eligibility criteria has not changed. You can view the full list of eligibility on the Healthy Start website (opens in a new tab).

Where can I use the prepaid card?

You can use your card in most places that sell milk, infant formula, fruit, and vegetables. This includes:

  • supermarkets
  • convenience stores
  • grocery stores
  • drug stores and pharmacies
  • markets
  • dairy products stores
  • news dealers and newsstands
  • freezer and locker meat provisioners (such as butcher shops)
  • petrol stations 

They must display a Mastercard® logo. The logo is normally shown on the shop door or at the till. Ask an employee inside the shop if they take Mastercard if you’re unsure. If you try to spend the money anywhere else the card will be declined.

How do I collect vitamins with the prepaid card?

You’ll need to show the healthcare professional your card to collect your free Healthy Start vitamins. There will not be any money taken from your card. You can find your nearest vitamin distributor on the NHS website (opens in a new tab).

Can I go back to the paper voucher scheme once I’ve applied online?

Once you have applied to the digital Healthy Start scheme, you cannot go back to the paper voucher scheme. The paper voucher scheme will be ending in 2022.

When will my paper vouchers stop being issued?

Your paper vouchers will stop once you have applied for the new Healthy Start scheme. Any paper vouchers that you have not used can be used up until the expiry date shown on your voucher.

How long will it take to receive my prepaid card once I have applied online? 

If your online application is successful, you’ll receive your prepaid card within 7 working days. 

I do not receive Healthy Start vouchers, how can I apply to join the scheme?

We’re only rolling out the digital scheme to smaller user groups at first. Therefore, we recommend that you complete a paper application form. This means that you can start receiving your benefit through paper vouchers to support you and your children until the new Healthy Start digital scheme is available to everyone.

Alert: Get help to buy food and milk (Healthy Start)

If you've received a letter from the NHS about Healthy Start, you can help us test our new service.