Plea to make it easier for vulnerable families to get free vitamins and food vouchers
Birmingham City Council has urged the government to make it easier for vulnerable families to register for the Healthy Start scheme.
The scheme provides food vouchers and free vitamins for pregnant women and their young children.
Just 61 per cent of eligible families in Birmingham have registered for the scheme and Cllr Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care, believes there are still too many barriers.
Writing to the secretary of state for welfare and pensions, Dr Therese Coffey, she has asked for an urgent meeting to discuss a solution to the nationwide problem.
Cllr Hamilton said: “The number of children who are currently food insecure in Birmingham is a significant problem, with long-term consequences for their health and wellbeing. Birmingham City Council is dedicated towards helping to reduce this impact but we have seen a considerable increase in the number of citizens now eligible for Healthy Start and this number continues to rise due to the impact of COVID. Covid has shone a light on the disparities within the city and growing health inequalities within many of our communities.
“We welcome the recent changes to the Healthy Start registration system, where those eligible no longer have to have the signature of a health professional. We do feel however, that more could be done to ensure Birmingham’s most vulnerable citizens and other vulnerable parents/carers and children across England are getting the food and vitamin support they need at this crucial time in their early years.”
She suggested one possible solution would be for eligible citizens to be automatically registered as they engage with the benefit system through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).