A Better Start Southend
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The Healthy Start Scheme

The Healthy Start Scheme

What is the Healthy Start Scheme?

The Healthy Start Scheme is a government initiative aimed at helping pregnant women, new mothers, and families with young children to access essential healthy foods and vitamins. It provides those eligible with a Mastercard in which money will be added to the card every 4 weeks to spend on fruit, vegetables, infant formula, and certain types of milk.

Am I eligible?

You can get a Healthy Start card if you are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years of age.
Your family must also get at least one of the following:

  • 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.* (To find this, look at your Universal Credit award notice in the section “your take home pay for this month”).

If you are under 18 and pregnant, you can get a Healthy Start card even if you don’t get any of the above benefits. If you are pregnant you need to contact the Healthy Start team via the details on the how to apply tab below or your benefits agency when your baby has been born. Try to do this as soon as possible to ensure you continue to receive NHS Healthy Start payments after giving birth. (It is recommended to let them know within 12 weeks of your expected due date).

Am I eligible if I’m not a British citizen but my child is?

Your eligibility for Healthy Start depends on your immigration status. The NHS website gives more information and lists the conditions that need to be met for you to qualify for the scheme. Click HERE to view the list.
If you think you cannot claim public funds because of your immigration status but want to apply for the Healthy Start Scheme, email and ask for an application form.

The amount of money that families receive depends on if they are pregnant or how old their children are:

  • £4.25 each week of your pregnancy from the 10th week*
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year*
  • £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years*

There is no limit on the amount of children you can claim for.

The money will stop when your child is 4 years of age or if you no longer receive benefits that make you eligible.

Fruit and vegetables, these should be:

  • fresh or frozen or tinned
  • whole or chopped
  • packaged or loose
  • fruit in fruit juice, or fruit or vegetables in water
  • fresh, dried or tinned pulses

Plain cow’s milk – This should be plain cow’s milk, which is pasteurised, sterilised, long-life or ultra-heat treated (UHT).

Infant formula should be:

  • labelled as suitable from birth
  • made from cow’s milk
  • It should not be follow-on formula or milk (‘from 6 months’, or ‘from 6 to 12 months’).

Top Tip: Your card will only allow you to buy items that fit the criteria above, if you need to buy other essentials that aren’t covered by the card you will need to put it through as a separate transaction. When adding items to your basket or trolley try to separate them as you go to save time when at the checkouts!

You can also use the Healthy Start card to collect free vitamins if you are pregnant, breastfeeding and for children from birth to age 4.

These are available to collect in Southend by showing your Healthy Start card to:

  • Cambridge Road Family Centre (Central Southend)
  • Friars Family Centre (Shoeburyness)
  • Blenheim Family Centre (Leigh on Sea)
  • Centre Place Family Centre (Kursaal)

You can apply for your card online on the NHS Healthy Start website or by emailing or calling 0300 330 7010.

You’ll receive your card by post. It should come within 5 to 10 working days, unless there is a high volume of applicants.

The card will come with your first payment on it and instructions on how to activate and use it. Money will then be automatically added to your card every 4 weeks.

You can call 0300 330 2090 to:

  • activate your card
  • get your PIN
  • check your balance
  • report your card as lost, damaged or stolen
  • This phone line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Before you are able to use the card for the first time you will need to call 0300 330 2090 to find out your PIN as a PIN is required for the first time the card is used. When you call you will need to give details of your:

  • Card
  • Date of Birth
  • Client ID (this is at the top of the letter that comes with your card)

The Healthy Start card is accepted in all convenience stores and supermarkets that accept Mastercard. The Mastercard symbol 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. Click HERE to view the spreadsheet with all the retailers in the local area that accept the Healthy Start card.

Make sure you use your card at least once every 16 weeks. If you do not use your card for more than 16 weeks, your payments may be stopped, and any remaining funds may be removed from your card.

If you haven’t used the card for 16 weeks or longer and you are still eligible you will need to reapply to start receiving payments again.

For more information on The Healthy Start Scheme

Visit Healthy Start NHS
For more information on The Healthy Start Scheme

Looking For Some Recipe Inspiration?

The Full Time Meals website, Facebook and Instagram have some easy and nutritious recipes that can be made with some ingredients from the healthy start card, and top tips on how to make the most of your food shop.

The NHS Start for Life and the Better Health – healthier families webpages also have healthy and nutritious recipes for little ones that are easy to make and can be made with ingredients bought with the Healthy Start card.

First Steps Nutrition Trust have a resource pack which includes information about healthy eating during pregnancy, portion sizes and recipes which little ones may enjoy. Click HERE to download the pack.

*Disclaimer: The content on this page is correct at the time of upload in March 2024. Some information is subject to change, please visit: for regular updates.