The value of the Healthy Start scheme needs to increase by 20 per cent to compensate for increases in the cost of food, new LGA analysis has found.
The value of the Healthy Start scheme needs to increase by 20 per cent to compensate for increases in the cost of food, new Local Government Association (LGA) analysis has found.
The value of the scheme, which helps pregnant women or families with children under the age of four with the cost of food and milk, was last reviewed in 2020.
Latest analysis by the LGA of food inflation has found that:
- The support for families with a baby under the age of one should rise from £8.50 per week to £10.47 a week, with councils warning that the current scheme does not meet the average price of any available first infant formula milk.
- The support for families with a baby between the ages of one and four should rise from £4.25 to £5.24 a week.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is asking for the Government to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to uplift the value of Healthy Start in line with current inflation and commit to review the value of the scheme every six months.
Latest figures show that out of those eligible for Healthy Start in England, 70 per cent have taken up the scheme. This is a 7 per cent increase from the start of the year thanks to the hard work of councils and partners to promote it in their communities.
However, 141,970 eligible pregnant women, babies and infants missed out on the scheme in October 2023 alone, equivalent to the entire population of Blackpool.
New LGA analysis shows that it is those families who have less confidence managing money or those who cannot speak English well or at all who are less likely to be taking advantage of Healthy Start.
The analysis also shows that councils across the country have worked hard to drive up uptake in areas with a higher percentage of lone parents not in employment as well as driving an increase in those with long term disabilities taking up the scheme.
The LGA is asking for the Government to expand access to this scheme to include all children who are facing food insecurity and poverty, which would help in addressing diet related inequalities resulting from low-incomes.
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said:
“Healthy Start is a vitally important programme which has helped families get access to healthy and affordable food since it was established nearly 20 years ago.
“However, the scheme has not kept pace with rising food inflation and does not fully meet the value of essential items such as baby formula.
“We are asking the Government to consider using the Autumn Statement to uplift the value of the scheme to bring it in line with inflation and review every six months.
“This is an essential way of ensuring the neediest babies, children and pregnant people get the nutrients they need.”
Notes to editors
The LGA’s Autumn Statement submission warns that councils in England face a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years. In its submission to the Chancellor, the LGA said the Government needs to provide immediate funding so councils can deliver the 2023/24 budgets they set this year and ensure that councils have sufficient resources to set balanced budgets next year without having to make drastic cuts to services.
It is accompanied by appendices on key areas of council activity that are experiencing sharp financial and/or demand pressures (adult social care, children’s services and housing and homelessness support).