THOUSANDS of cash-strapped families are missing out on supermarket vouchers worth up to £442 a year.
The Healthy Start scheme gives low income parents and soon-to-be mums extrahelp to pay for food.
The scheme provides coupons to help low-income families with small children buy milk, vegetables, fruit, pulses and vitamins.
The value of one voucher is £4.25 a week for pregnant parents and those with kids aged between one and four.
If you have a child under the age of one, you can claim up to £8.50 per week.
That brings your maximum total up to £442 a year if you claim Healthy Start vouchers.
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But up to 155,000 families are not claiming these vouchers even though they're eligible, NationalWorld reports.
Tens of thousands of households do not realise they are eligible for the extra help.
But with millions of people battling a cripplingcost of living crisis, it's vital to claim all the assistance you can.
Groceries prices have soared in recent months – shoppers were outraged this week to discover a pack of Lurpark butter had hit more than £7.
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Whole milk prices in the UK were 12.2% higher in April compared to a year ago, latest figures show.
But the Healthy Start scheme has come under fire this year, after the system switched from physical vouchers to prepaid cards.
The change sparked chaos and frustration as shoppers' vouchers were declined at the till.
Previously the paper vouchers could be used at a wide variety of stores – but not all local shops, supermarkets or pharmacists for vitamins.
But the new card is supposed to work in any location where Mastercard is accepted.
How can I apply?
You can apply for Healthy Start vouchers via the NHS online application form on their website.
You can also ask your midwife for the form.
Alternatively, you can download an application form from the Healthy Start website, print it off, fill it in and send it to:
Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR, Healthy Start Issuing Unit, PO Box 1067, Warrington, WA55 1EG.
If you don’t have a printer, you can call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and get a form sent to you.
If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops.
However much you're eligible for will be added to the card every four weeks.
But you'll need to make sure you meet the minimum requirements before you apply.
To be eligible for the scheme, you'll need to be more than 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under four.
You also need to receive one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family.
If you're under 18 and pregnant, you could still be eligible for vouchers.
What help can I get if i'm not eligible?
Don't worry if you're not eligible for the scheme. There are plenty of other ways to get a helping hand amidst the cost of living crisis.
For example, The Household Support Fund is helping those on low income pay for essentials and bills.
What you get depends on which council area you're in, because they all give out money in different ways.
For example, Birmingham are lending a free £200 in cash to help with food and bills.
To check if you're eligible and what you could get, call up your local council.
There are also other schemes available – British Gas has opened its hardship fund which could give you £1,000 towards your energy bills.
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Also, you can use an online benefits calculator to make sure you're not missing out on any extra cash.
Similarly, you can search for grants that can help you pay for gas and electricity bills.
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