PARENTS with young children may qualify for help to get free milk from supermarkets and other shops under a government scheme.

The Healthy Start scheme offers people who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four money to help them buy healthy food and milk.

It's in place to help people on lower incomes afford the basics, and to qualify, you usually have to be receiving another kind of benefit such as Universal Credit or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.

But there are concerns that not everyone who could get the money is receiving it.

Iceland is hoping to boost uptake of the voucher scheme by promoting it on milk bottles.

The supermarket will print “Could you get this milk for free?” on 81 million bottles in a bid to raise awareness of the scheme.

Iceland said it has seen NHS data which suggested 130,000 low income families were missing out on the scheme by not claiming.

Who is eligible for the scheme?

In order to receive the Healthy Start money, you must get any of the following:

  • Child Tax Credit (only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family’s take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment)

You will also be eligible for Healthy Start if:

  • you’re under 18 and pregnant, even if you are not claiming any benefits
  • you claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are over 10 weeks pregnant
  • you, your partner or your carer get Working Tax Credit run-on only after you have reported you’re working 16 hours or less per week

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How do I access the money?

Healthy Start used to be given out in paper vouchers, but has now moved onto a prepaid card.

You can use the card in most places where food is sold, including supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, markets, butchers shops and petrol stations.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use when you pay.

Your money will be added onto the card every four weeks.

How much will I get?

You’ll get £4.25 each week of your pregnancy from the 10th week, £8.50 each week for children from birth to one, and £4.25 each week for children between one and four.

That's as much as £442 worth of free food over the year for each child.

Your money will stop when your child is four, or if you no longer receive benefits.

What can I buy with it?

You can use your card to buy plain cow's milk or baby formula milk, and it can also be used to buy fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh, dried, and tinned pulses.

You can also use the card to get free vitamin supplements. These are tablets for women and drops for children.

How do I apply?

To apply, you can download a paper form from the Heathy Start website here or you can request one from your GP or midwife.

Alternatively, you can request one from the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823.

To apply, you will need your:

  • name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • baby’s due date (if you’re pregnant)
  • benefit award letter if you’re over 18

If you already receive the vouchers, you need to sign up for the prepaid card system.

You must switch to the digital scheme by March 10 to continue receiving the benefit and avoid payment delays.

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