LIDL is topping up the value of weekly Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 from next month, three months ahead of a government increase.
The supermarket is upping the amount by £1.15 from its current worth of £3.10, starting on January 4.
The move comes ahead of a planned government increase of the same amount for the Healthy Start vouchers from April 2021.
It follows a campaign by football legend Marcus Rashford, who had lobbied for ministers to top up Healthy Start vouchers to help struggling families.
Lidl is the first supermarket to announce that it's bringing in the increase early.
The discounter has committed to investing up to £1million to plug the gap between January 2021 and the planned government increase in April 2021.
Am I eligible for the Healthy Start scheme?
YOU must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old to be eligible for the scheme.
You must also receive one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit with a total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family
You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.
We explain how to apply below.
Healthy Start vouchers are designed to help households with the cost of fruit, vegetables and milk. They can also be spent on vitamins for mums-to-be or babies.
They’re currently available to mums who are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four and get income support or other benefits.
You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any benefits.
The scheme was launched in 2006 as a "nutritional safety net" for struggling households.
Most eligible parents get one voucher per week, except those with children under one who get two vouchers per week.
The value of the weekly £3.10 voucher hasn’t changed since 2009 despite rising food prices.
Lidl GB CEO, Christian Härtnagel, said: “At Lidl, we know that it has been a challenging year for families and budgets are tight.
“We all have a role to play within the community and we are committed to helping these families in any way we can.
“This is why we have decided to bring forward the planned increase to the value of the Healthy Start vouchers across all our stores in England and Wales.”
Marcus Rashford said: “I’m delighted that Lidl has made such a positive move and committed to increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers.
“This was one of our Taskforce’s key asks and will make a huge difference to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
How to apply for the Healthy Start scheme
To apply for the scheme, you'll need to fill out a form on the Healthy Start website.
You can either print off a blank form and fill it out by hand, or fill out an online application form and then print this off at the end.
If you don’t have a printer, you can call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and get one sent to you.
You need to fill out Part A, but you can leave Part B blank – it involves getting a health professional's signature, but this requirement was removed in April.
Once you've signed and dated your form, put it in an envelope and send it to:
Healthy Start Issuing Unit,
PO Box 1067,
Warrington WA55 1EG
You don't need a stamp to send off your form, as you're sending it to a freepost address.
Once you get the vouchers, they'll last for 12 weeks and can be spent in any of the 30,000 shops that are registered to take part in the Healthy Start scheme.
These include corner shops, supermarkets, market stalls, greengrocers, milk floats and pharmacies, but they're not valid for online shopping.
You can use the postcode finder on the Healthy Start website to find your nearest retailer.
The scheme is only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
If you live in Scotland, you can apply for Best Start Foods instead.
Worrying research, released in August 2020, showed how 270,000 young mums are missing out on Healthy Start vouchers.
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