More families to become eligible for healthy food benefit scheme

All income thresholds are to be removed for the scheme.

More families to become eligible for healthy food benefit scheme iStock
A pre-paid card is provided to help pay for healthy foods, such as fruit and milk.

Around 30,000 more families are expected to benefit from a pre-paid card allowing them to purchase healthy food.

It comes with the expansion of eligibility for the Best Start Foods scheme.

The change will be implemented from 2023/2024 and is part of the Scottish Government’s plan on tackling child poverty.

All income thresholds are to be removed for the scheme, with eligibility being opened up to all of those in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

The scheme, aimed at supporting low-income households with a newly born child, is delivered by providing a pre-paid card that can be used in shops or online to buy healthy food such as milk and fruit.

The card makes £18 available every four weeks throughout pregnancy.

It then provides £36 every four weeks from birth until a child turns one.

Then £18 is provided every four weeks from one until a child turns three.

Scotland’s social security minister Ben Macpherson announced the changes on Wednesday.

“Tackling child poverty is a national mission for us. We continue to take the necessary steps to reach the ambitious targets set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan,” he said.

“Social security is one of the main pillars of this plan and will help us to deliver support directly into the pockets of those families who need it the most.

“The cost of healthy food was already a pressure for parents and carers, and the cost of living increases are only making this more challenging.

“We will remove the income thresholds for Best Start Foods so that around 30,000 additional people who receive tax credits or certain benefits will be able to receive Best Start Foods by the end of financial year 2023-24.”

Sharon Hill, development manager of Mayfield and Easthouses Development Trust, which runs a community pantry in Midlothian serving local people, welcomed the move.

“We have been operating the pantry for less than a year but it is clear that people from all walks of life and backgrounds are looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to doing their essential food shopping,” she said.

“We encourage people to ensure that they get all the benefits that are available to them and we welcome any move to open that support up to include more people.

“Like many people involved in community pantries and food banks our aim is to help people get to a place where they don’t require these services any more.”