If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk. If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. We’ll add your benefit onto this card every 4 weeks.
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If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.
If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. We’ll add your benefit onto this card every 4 weeks.
You can use your card to buy:
plain liquid cow’s milk
fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables
fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
infant formula milk based on cow’s milk
You can also use your card to collect:
Healthy Start vitamins – these support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
vitamin drops for babies and young children – these are suitable from birth to 4 years old
If you live in Scotland
You can get help from Best Start Foods (opens in a new tab) instead.
Advice on healthy eating
For more advice on healthy eating, visit:
If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, the Healthy Start scheme can help you:
buy healthy foods like milk or fruit
get free vitamins
You need to be claiming certain benefits to qualify.
If you’re pregnant and under 18 you can claim even if you do not receive any benefits.
To ensure pregnant women and children under 4 get the required healthy food, milk and vitamins.
How to apply
If you get Universal credit, you can apply online if:
you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 years old
your family’s monthly ‘take-home pay for this period’ is £408 or less from employment
If you get Child Tax Credit, you can apply online if:
you have at least one child under 4 years old
your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less
To apply, you’ll need your:
date of birth
National Insurance number
baby’s due date (if you’re pregnant)
benefit award letter if you’re over 18 (you must enter the same information that’s on this letter)
Applying by email or phone
You can apply by email or phone if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have at least one child under 4 years old, and get either:
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for 4 weeks if your working hours, or your partner or carer’s, go to less than 16 hours per week)
You can also apply by email or phone if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant and either:
under 18 years old and not getting any benefits
getting Child Tax Credits and your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less
getting income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
You can apply by either:
calling 0300 330 7010
Phone lines are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays). Find out about call charges (opens in a new tab).
If you’ve previously got Healthy Start vouchers
We are no longer sending paper vouchers. To get help to buy food and milk you need to apply for a Healthy Start card.
You can still use your Healthy Start vouchers until their expiry date. You can find the expiry date printed on your vouchers.
If you’re not a British citizen but your child is
You might be eligible for Healthy Start depending on your immigration status.
You can get Healthy Start if all the following are true:
you have at least 1 British child under 4 years old – check if your child is automatically a British citizen (opens in a new tab) if you’re not sure
your family earns £408 or less per month after tax
you cannot claim ‘public funds’ (opens in a new tab) (for example, benefits) – either because of your immigration status or because you do not have an immigration status
Your biometric residence permit (BRP) or your online immigration status (opens in a new tab) will say if you cannot claim public funds. You might also have a letter from the Home Office about it.
To apply for Healthy Start, ask for an application form via email. Only use this email address if you think you cannot claim public funds because of your immigration status.
You’ll get money added onto your Healthy Start card every 4 weeks.
£4.25 each week of your pregnancy from the 10th week
£8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
£4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old
Your money will stop when your child is 4 years old, or if you do not get benefits that make you eligible.
You can also get free vitamins with your card.
Shopping with your card
You should only use your card to buy certain types of milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.
You need to activate your card before you can use it. The first time you use your card you’ll need to use your PIN. After that, you can make contactless payments.
When you use contactless four times in a row, or spend a combined £150, you’ll need to use your PIN on the next transaction. This is to help with the security of your card.
You cannot use your Healthy Start card:
outside of the UK, including the Republic of Ireland
on your phone’s wallet app
to withdraw cash from an ATM
to get cashback
Shopping with vouchers
You can use any paper Healthy Start vouchers you have up until the expiry date shown on them. You may need to ask the retailer if they can accept the vouchers.
Where to shop
You can use your card in most places that sell milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.
They must display a Mastercard® symbol. The 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.
If you try to spend the money anywhere else the card will be declined. For example at a fast food restaurant.
How to shop
You can only spend up to the balance of your card.
You can split payments between your Healthy Start card and your normal bank card or cash. Some shops will need to do this as separate transactions.
At self-checkout machines you can only split payments between your Healthy Start card and cash, not another bank card.
Do not worry if you make a mistake when using your Healthy Start card to buy healthy food with other shopping. It will not affect your benefit payments.
A shopping example
Sam has £10 left on their Healthy Start card and goes to their local supermarket.
They put £6 of fresh vegetables and £2 of plain cow’s milk in their basket. They also pick up £5 of toiletries and £5 of bread and cereal.
When Sam gets to the tills, they should pay for the:
£8 of vegetables and milk with their Healthy Start card
£10 of toiletries, bread and cereal with their bank card or cash
If you need to get a refund on something you’ve bought, go back to the shop with your items, receipt and Healthy Start card. The money will be refunded to your Healthy Start card.
Frequently asked questions that people may have about the Healthy Start scheme