Healthy Start

Healthy Start is the Government welfare food scheme. Healthy Start supports young and low income pregnant women and families with children under the age of 4 years in the UK.

The Healthy Start scheme is UK wide but is managed by The Department of Health in England. Information about the scheme, and about healthy eating, aimed at both health professionals and parents, is provided on the Healthy Start website.


The UK Healthy Start scheme

This report looks at the Healthy Start welfare food scheme in the UK which started in 2006, considers what has happened to the scheme, whether it has met its goals and what we think needs to happen to make it fit for purpose moving forward. It includes a number of recommendations for policy makers and for those working in local areas and we hope that these are useful for local discussion and future national policy discussions.

First Steps Nutrition Trust has put together a resource to guide professionals on making the most of this valuable government initiative


Making the most of Healthy Start
A practical guide (2017)

This updated report provides guidance to health professionals on the Healthy Start scheme, and how to support those eligible for vitamin coupons and food vouchers. 

The resource includes information about how to create simple, tasty family meals which incorporate the fruit, vegetables and milk that can be purchased with Healthy Start food vouchers. It also includes advice on buying and cooking food on a budget and aims to provide both those who manage the scheme and those who benefit from it with useful information on how families can eat well.

Who manages Healthy Start in the UK?

The scheme is a UK wide scheme, but is currently managed by The Department of Health in England. The Department works with the Department of Work and Pensions to verify eligibility. There are some differences in how Healthy Start works in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To access the scheme potential beneficiaries must have a form signed by a health professional (GP, Midwife, Health Visitor or other nurse) to confirm they are 10 weeks pregnant or more or have children under the age of 4 years. 

Eligibility criteria in terms of income and benefits received can be found on the Healthy Start website. Families claiming income-based benefits, or claiming child tax credit without working tax credit (unless it is working tax credit run-on) with an annual family income of £16,190 or less are currently eligible as well as all pregnant women under 18 years of age.

From 1st November 2016 families claiming Universal Credit with a take-home pay of £408 or less per month also qualify for Healthy Start.

Currently beneficiaries receive:

Healthy Start food vouchers are issued four-weekly by post and Healthy Start vitamin vouchers are sent every 8 weeks.



Information for Food Banks


Information for Food Banks:
Supporting pregnant women and families with infants

This resource is designed for volunteers and those who run food banks with information on supporting pregnant women and women with infants and young children who may use their services. It explains why donations of infant formula should not be accepted and given out and how to signpost families to additional support and benefits they may be eligible for.