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Healthy Start: The Use of Welfare Food Vouchers by Low-Income Parents in England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-469
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number3
Early online date20 Feb 2015
DateAccepted/In press - 27 May 2014
DateE-pub ahead of print - 20 Feb 2015
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2015


The Healthy Start scheme provides food welfare to pregnant women and children under four years old in the UK. The Government provides vouchers to families living on a low income that can be exchanged for infant formula, plain cow's milk and fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. This article reports on a qualitative study of parents using Healthy Start in England. Interviews were conducted with 107 parents from thirteen areas in England. Most found the scheme easy to use, but some vulnerable groups were unable to access the scheme. The vouchers provided a vital source of food at times of crisis, and put purchase of fruit and vegetables within reach for some. Parents reduced stigma by using self-service tills and by only visiting retailers known to accept the vouchers. Healthy Start provides additional protection by sitting outside of other social security benefits. To continue to provide this essential protection, their value should be reviewed and increased.

    Structured keywords

  • PolicyBristolChildrenAndFamilies
  • PolicyBristolHealthAndWellbeing
  • WUNhealth

    Research areas

  • child, family, Food welfare, health, poverty


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