Next steps for Healthy Start: Adding frozen fruit and vegetables and minimising voucher misuse

Closed 1 Jan 2011

Opened 8 Oct 2010

Feedback expected 17 Feb 2011

Results Updated 25 Jul 2011

Almost 2,400 organisations and individuals responded either to the formal consultation questions or to simpler on-line surveys targetting beneficiaries, health professionals and retailers that were posted on the main Healthy Start website and Healthy Start retailer website.  

Responses showed overwhelming support for adding plain frozen fruit and vegetables to the scheme, with 90% of all respondents agreeing that this should happen and a further 6% that it might be a good idea.  In light of this, the law was changed on 6 April 2011 throughout the UK so that Healthy Start vouchers could also be spent on plain fruit and vegetables from that date.  Scheme guidance for beneficiaries and retailers was updated and reissued during March 2011.

Responses provided no objective evidence that there is any significant issue with vouchers being wrongly spent on products not included in the scheme.  Though many respondents nonetheless felt that we could do more to reduce the risks of this happening, there was no consensus on the best way to go about it.  Nor was there any significant support for new or more stringent statutory regulation.  We will therefore work with retailers and retailer organisations in 2011/12 to explore new ways of improving how retailers handle Healthy Start vouchers, and to consider how progress can be measured. 

A full summary of the results of the consultation, the Government's response to them, and the related impact assessment, are available from the link on this page.

Links:

Overview

Healthy Start vouchers were introduced across the UK in November 2006 to replace Welfare Food Scheme milk and infant tokens. They are available to pregnant women and families with children under 4 years old receiving one of a range of benefits or tax credits, and to all pregnant women under 18 years old. The vouchers can be spent on liquid cow’s milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk at participating retail outlets.

Why We Are Consulting

In this public consultation, the Department of Health, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Northern Ireland Assembly asked whether beneficiaries should be able to choose to spend vouchers on plain frozen fruit and vegetables as well as the foods already allowed. They also asked whether further measures may be needed to reduce risks of vouchers being spent on products that are not included in the scheme, to ensure that Healthy Start can effectively support nutritionally vulnerable women and families now and in future.

Consultation timetable

The consultation ran from Friday 8 October to Friday 31 December 2010.

How to comment on the consultation process

If you would like to make any comments about the consultation process we have followed, please contact the Consultations Co-ordinator, Department of Health, 3E58 Quarry House, LEEDS, LS2 7UE. Email: consultations.co-ordinator@dh.gsi.gov.uk.  Please do not send answers to the consultation questions to this address or mailbox.
 

What Happens Next

The law was changed throughout the UK on 6 April 2011 to allow beneficiaries of Healthy Start to spend their Healthy Start vouchers on frozen fruit and vegetables.    We will work  with retailers and retailer representative organisations in 2011/12 to explore new ways of improving the way that retailers handle Healthy Start vouchers, and to consider how progress can be measured.  

Audiences

  • Voluntary groups
  • Community groups
  • Charities
  • GPs
  • Nurses
  • Health visitors
  • Members of the public
  • Retailers

Interests

  • Nutrition