Get Healthy Start vouchers? You need to apply for a prepaid card to receive payments from March or you'll miss out
Some 100,000 low income households and pregnant women currently in receipt of 'NHS Healthy Start' vouchers need to actively apply for a new prepaid card to receive their payments from 10 March, as the scheme will stop sending out paper vouchers.
Below we explain what's changing, how the new prepaid card works and how to apply for it. If you’re struggling with money, you can also use our Benefits Calculator to check you're not missing out on any financial support you may be eligible for.
The scheme helps people with the cost of healthy food and milk
Under the paper voucher scheme, eligible low income households and expectant mothers can get £4.25 a week, or £8.50 a week for a family with a child under 12 months old, in paper vouchers to pay for items such as fruit, vegetables, milk and tinned pulses. People can also get separate vouchers for vitamins.
Until now, Healthy Start has posted out paper vouchers to people in four-week batches. The vouchers can be used in shops that have registered with the Healthy Start scheme and recipients have 12 weeks to spend them. But the scheme will issue the last paper vouchers between 24 February and 10 March - although you can continue to use them until the expiry date.
Nearly 250,000 people have applied for the scheme since its launch last year; you can read more about who's eligible and how to apply in our Maternity Grants guide.
Papers vouchers will be replaced with a new prepaid card
Recipients and new beneficiaries instead need to actively register for a new prepaid card that will be automatically updated with the £4.25 (or £8.50) each week. The NHS Business Services Authority, which manages the scheme, says this application process is quicker and easier than before.
But some 100,000 eligible people still haven’t registered for the new card, and they need to do so by 10 March to avoid missing out on payments. Prepaid card payments will only be backdated to the date you apply, so miss the deadline and you may lose out on payments in between your vouchers ending and your prepaid card arriving.
You can apply for the new card now
You can apply online now for the new prepaid card. Just head to the NHS Healthy Start website and follow the instructions. Here are the key need-to-knows:
- Cards need to be activated before use. How to do so will be explained in a letter you get with your card.
- Money stays on the card for 16 weeks. Any cash unused after 16 weeks is returned to Healthy Start.
- The new card can be used in most shops that accept Mastercard. This includes supermarkets, convenience stores, markets and newsagents. You can only use the card in-store though - not online.
- The card is contactless and there's no minimum spend. Though you will need to enter your PIN the first time you use it and on certain transactions after this. The card can also be used as proof of entitlement when collecting free Healthy Start vitamins. Find your nearest vitamin provider.
- You can check your card balance for free at an ATM. Though you can't use it to withdraw cash. Or, you can check your balance by calling Healthy Start's phone number on 0300 330 2090. Calls are charged at local rates, so check how much your mobile or landline provider charges for these (many get them free with call plans).
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