In a open letter, the footballer and child poverty campaigner, Marcus Rashford, has called on health professionals to spread the word about the government’s Healthy Start scheme, in a bid to increase take up among eligible families.
In the letter, which is published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Rashford explains that more than 40% of families eligible for the voucher scheme (those in receipt of a welfare benefit and who have at least one child under four or are pregnant) are still not registered. The Government’s Healthy Start scheme provides eligible pregnant women and families with free vouchers worth £4.24 a week to exchange for milk infant formula, fruit, vegetables and pulses.
Rashford says that while 57,000 more parents have signed up to the scheme after members of his Child Food Poverty Taskforce promoted it via their channels and platform, he is concerned take up is plateauing. Rashford launched the Child Poverty Taskforce last September in partnership with brands including Aldi, Tesco, Deliveroo and Kelloggs.
He writes: ”Healthcare professionals are in a position to highlight the Healthy Start Scheme to eligible parents, and I would very much appreciate it if you would consider collaborating with us on communicating and educating about the scheme when possible. I’m confident that the majority of these parents can be found in communities like mine where I grew up – no internet, no high street, no word of mouth.”
He adds: “We need you to help us reach those most in need in our communities, especially given the planned digitisation of the scheme this autumn, which will disproportionately disadvantage those without easy access to the internet.“