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Millions of Britons could miss out on £442 worth of free food due to entitlement regulations

LOW INCOME families could face losing access to free state-supported food if they don’t switch to Universal Credit after having a baby.

New parents have been told they can no longer receive Healthy Start vouchers to help raise their children if they are still enjoying legacy benefits, despite instructions on the government website saying that they can.

The Healthy Start voucher is now worth £4.25 each

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The Healthy Start voucher is now worth £4.25 eachCredit: Getty

Healthy start Vouchers help pregnant women and low-income families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with young children.

They help cover the cost of milk, vegetables, fruits, snacks, and vitamins.

The offer is valid from the 10th week of pregnancy or if you have a child under 4 years old.

If you’re eligible for the scheme, you’ll be sent vouchers that you can use at over 30,000 UK stores.

You can also get coupons in exchange for vitamins to help with pregnancy, breastfeeding, or your baby.

The offers are now worth £4.25 each after the value was increased last April.

ONE Start with the plan which means you’ll soon have a prepaid card loaded with the money, instead of having an offer mailed.

Eligible families receive one or two vouchers per week per child, depending on the age of each child.

If you have a baby younger than 12 months old, you will receive two offers per week.

That means in the first year of your child’s life you could get £442.

Pregnant women get one voucher per week and parents also get one voucher for each child aged one to four, which equates to at least £221 for a year.

As well as being pregnant or giving birth to a child under the age of four, Website gov.uk also lists certain benefits that you must receive to be eligible.

Including:

  • Child tax credit (but only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Employment Allowance and Income Related Assistance (ESA)
  • Income support
  • Job Seeker’s Allowance based on income
  • Pension Credit
  • Joint Credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from work)

However, parents are now reporting that if they receive an ESA while pregnant, they cannot continue to receive vouchers after their child is born, unless they switch to it. Universal Credit.

This will involve a new review which can take time and means they miss out on payments or even qualify for a lower amount.

The Disability news service reported on a mother who accused the government of “extorting disabled people to Universal Credit” after being told she was no longer eligible to receive vouchers.

She entered the ESA program and received the voucher while pregnant but says she was no longer eligible after her son was born.

This is despite Gov.uk guidance stating that ESA claimants can apply for vouchers.

The Gov.uk website still lists ESA claimants as eligible for the Healthy Start voucher

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The Gov.uk website still lists ESA claimants as eligible for the Healthy Start voucher

A spokesman for the department of health and social care told The Sun: “Inheritance claimants can claim Universal Credit if they believe they will be better off.

“The government encourages people to check their rights using benefit calculator before making any changes that cannot be reverted.

“We are reviewing the information available on the government website to ensure this accurately reflects current eligibility criteria for the program.”

The Sun asked why the Gov.uk website now says that ESA and other legacy claimants can apply and when this will change.

It comes as the government continues to roll out Universal Credit, which involves shifting people away from old benefits, which could mean new filings and delays.

Andrew Forsey, country director of advocacy group Feed Britain, is urging the disputing parties to ensure they are receiving the correct benefits to qualify and urging the government to clarify the criteria.

He said many families were also missing due to the switch from paper cards to cards last year, which is still not accepted everywhere.

Forsey told The Sun: “Families in need are in need of all the help they can get at this time.

“For the government to place more barriers on programs like Healthy Start, which provide an effective way for families to stretch their budgets further, that’s pretty appalling.”

How do I apply for a Healthy Start voucher?

You can apply for the coupons by downloading the application form from Healthy Start Website.

Print it out, fill it out and send it to Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR, Healthy Start Issuer, PO Box 1067, Warrington, WA55 1EG.

If you don’t have a printer, you can call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and have the form mailed to you.

You can also get an application form from your midwife or health visitor.

In addition, you can Apply online through the NHS website.

You will have to provide:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • national insurance number
  • Baby’s due date (if you’re pregnant)
  • Welfare award letter if you are over 18 (you must enter the same information as in this letter)

Once your application is approved, you will have a coupon sent to you every four weeks.

Coupons can be used in supermarkets, corner stores, greengrocers, market stalls, pharmacies, grocery stores, and milk carts or carts.

You can find the nearest stores that accept coupons using the Healthy Start tool on the website.

How to switch to General Credit

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is aiming to move all claimants to Universal Credit by 2024.

It replaces

  • Working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Job Seeker’s Allowance based on income
  • Income support
  • Employment Allowance and Income Related Support
  • Housing welfare

You will only be moved if you notify the DWP of a change in circumstances or the government eventually contacts you about the move.

In either case, you’ll need to make a new application to switch from your old benefits to General Credit, which can be lower and take longer to apply.

Self-isolating Brits are being reminded that they can still £500 pandemic payment claim.

MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis also revealed otherwise cash support to which the employee may be entitled.

Martin Lewis explains how to use the internet for free if you’re on Universal Credit

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/17397911/brits-miss-free-food-due-to-benefits-rules/ Millions of Britons could miss out on £442 worth of free food due to entitlement regulations

JACLYN DIAZ

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