Citizens Advice Salford

Changes to the Healthy Start Scheme – It’s going digital:

The government’s healthy start scheme is changing in the autumn to make it easier to use, and more flexible. If you qualify for the scheme you are entitled to a weekly payment to help with the costs of buying milk, baby milk, and some foods. You’ll get £4.25 each week of your pregnancy (from the 10th week of pregnancy), £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old, £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old.

How is Healthy Start changing?

The NHS is 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 the payment.

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

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

When will people be told to apply?

The NHS is aiming to start rolling out the invitation process Autumn 2021 to current Healthy Start beneficiaries on the paper voucher scheme. These will be contacted to let them know when and how to apply online to the new Healthy Start scheme. 

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

When you are invited to apply online, you’ll need to go to the Healthy Start Website and complete an online application form, see below.

What if people 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, the benefit will stop. The paper vouchers can be used until their expiry date.

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
  • (Some supermarkets have said they will add to the value of the scheme.)

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, see below.

Where can the prepaid card be used?

The prepaid card can be used in most places that sell milk, infant formula, fruit, and vegetables. This includes:

  • supermarkets
  • convenience stores
  • grocery stores
  • 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 people collect vitamins with the prepaid card?

You will need to show the healthcare professional the card to collect your free Healthy Start vitamins. There will not be any money taken from the card.  The nearest vitamin distributor can be found on the NHS website.

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

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

When will paper vouchers stop being issued?

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

How long will it take to receive the prepaid card once somebody has applied online? 

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

If people do not receive Healthy Start vouchers, how can they apply to join the scheme?

The NHS is only rolling out the digital scheme to smaller user groups at first. Therefore, it recommends that people complete a paper application form. This means that you can start receiving the benefit through paper vouchers to support yourself and your children until the new Healthy Start digital scheme is available to everyone.

From the NHS website which is at

Tom Togher

August 2021.