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Healthy Start programme

Healthy Start is available to all pregnant women and families with children under four years old who are on:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2014/15).

Under 18 year olds who are pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits or tax credits also qualify.

Healthy Start vouchers aim to:

  • Improve the nutrition of pregnant women
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake
  • Initiate and maintain breastfeeding
  • Introduce foods in addition to milk as part of a progressively varied diet when infants are six months old.

Pregnant women and children over one and under four years old can get one £3.10 voucher per week. Children under one year old can get two £3.10 vouchers (£6.20) per week (May 2014)

The vouchers can be spent on:

  • plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
  • plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg (fruit and vegetables with no added ingredients), whole or chopped, packaged or loose
  • infant formula milk that says it can be used from birth and is based on cow’s milk.

The voucher also gives an entitlement to vitamin supplements which can either be claimed from their local health board or from the local pharmacy. 

For information on the programme and how to assess eligibility both practitioners and women can use the Healthy Start website.

Healthy Start Vitamins

In 2013 the Scottish Government established a national 12 month trial scheme designed to encourage improved uptake of Healthy Start Vitamins.  This trial has been extended to September 2014 while an evaluation of the scheme is undertaken.  Community Pharmacies and Dispensing Practices are participating in this trial to support the healthier nutrition of pregnant women and young children who meet the Healthy Start criteria. It is estimated that around 33,745 children and 10,551 women across Scotland are entitled to Healthy Start Vitamins. For more information about Healthy Start Vitamins and participating Pharmacies see the Healthy Start website

In some areas Healthy Start Vitamins can also be bought by families who are not eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme.  Families should ask their Health Visitor or Midwife about local arrangements.

How can I encourage uptake of Health Start?

Professionals can help by raising awareness with the families you work with. Leaflets and posters can be accessed from the Healthy Start website

Examples of how one community has supported the uptake of Healthy Start can be found on the Community Food and Health website

For more information on making the most of healthy start see the First Steps Nutrition website