PARENTS can boost their Healthy Start vouchers if they head to Waitrose for their shop and get over £422 of free food this year.
The supermarket has announced it will be boosting the value of every voucher by £1.50 from today until April.
This means every Healthy Start voucher, which is usually worth £3.10, will be increased to £4.60.
Under the state-backed Healthy Start vouchers scheme, pregnant women and low income families with children under the age of four can get free vouchers every week to spend on healthy foods.
This includes milk, fruit and vegetables, pulses and instant formula milk.
How can you apply for the vouchers, and how much more free food will you be getting in total under the Waitrose boost? We explain all you need to know.
What is the free Healthy Start vouchers scheme?
Families that qualify for the Healthy Start scheme get one or two vouchers per week, per child, depending how old each child is.
You must be pregnant or have a child under the age of four and receive any of these benefits:
- child tax credits (if your family’s annual income is £16,190)
- income-related employment and support allowance
- income support
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- pension credit
- universal credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment)
- working tax credits (but only if your family is receiving the 4 week ‘run-on’ payment)
Pregnant women and children over one but under four can get one £3.10 voucher per week.
Children under one can get to £3.10 vouchers per week, which means they’ll be able to get £6.20 per week.
The Government is also set to increase the value of vouchers from April to December to £4.25.
This means you’ll get a total of £412.10 of free food over the year.
How much more free food can I get with the Waitrose boost?
Waitrose has announced that from today, it will boost the value of Healthy Start vouchers by £1.50.
This means that for every voucher worth £3.10 you present, the supermarket will boost it to £4.60.
Waitrose told The Sun it will boost the vouchers up until April, which is the government will increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25.
But it is uncertain whether Waitrose will continue to boost the vouchers by £1.50 after this point.
The supermarket told The Sun it will look at how it can “continue to support our customers” after April.
But from now until then, you’ll be able to get the voucher boost for eight weeks.
We’ve calculated you’ll therefore get £12 of extra free food.
This means in total, with the vouchers boost, you could get £424.10 worth of free food under the Healthy Start scheme if you shop at Waitrose.
However, before shopping at Waitrose, it’s a good idea to compare prices of items against the same or similar products at other supermarkets.
You might find that your shop could be more expensive at Waitrose than it could be at other supermarkets.
Are other supermarkets boosting vouchers too?
Lidl is also boosting Healthy Start vouchers.
The supermarket announced at the start of January that it would be topping up vouchers by £1.15 until the end of March.
It means you can get £4.25 worth of food for each £3.10 voucher spent in store for an extra 13 weeks in the year.
How do I apply for Healthy Start vouchers?
You can download an application form from the Healthy Start website, which you then print off, fill in and sign and send it to:
Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
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 then fill it in and post it back.
Once your application is approved, you’ll have the vouchers posted out to you every four weeks.
You can then spend your Healthy Start in supermarkets, corner shops, greengrocers, market stalls, pharmacies, food co-ops and milk floats or vans.
You can find your nearest shops that accept them using the Healthy Start tool on its website.
What other help can I apply for?
You might be eligible for the Government’s free school meals scheme.
Families of children who usually qualify for free school meals are eligible for either supermarket or local shop vouchers, or food or meals sent to their home.
Parents of children who usually get free meals can get supermarket vouchers worth £15 per week, per child.
Alternatively, schools can claim up to £3.50 per pupil, per week, on top of their usual funding to provide food parcels.
The government is urging schools to use this approach wherever possible, but it is ultimately up to each establishment to decide whether to send vouchers or parcels.
How you claim the free school meals depends on where you live.
For example, you can either get a form to fill in from your school, call your local council or fill in an online form.
Start by entering your postcode into the Gov.uk website to see what the process is in your area.
There’s a different process if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.
It’s worth pointing out that if you claim housing benefit or council tax support you can apply for free school meals when you are filling out your forms.
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And here’s more details about Aldi’s Healthy Start vouchers boost.
We’ve examined how much food you can get for your voucher at each of the main UK supermarkets.