Increased allowance and new changes to Welfare Foods Scheme.
Low-income families with young children will receive increased payments, digital smartcards and access to a wider range of foods, under new proposals.
The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to reshape the Welfare Foods Scheme, which aims to help families access a healthy diet.
The plans include changing from paper Healthy Start food vouchers to smartcards for easier use and to reduce stigma, as well as cutting the administration involved for retailers. Families’ allowances would rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week, and from £899 to £1,011 in total over the period they receive support.
The range of foods covered by the system will also expand, while it is proposed to add a healthy snack to the free milk children receive at nurseries.
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said:
“Central to our aim of improving Scotland’s health and tackling inequality is ensuring everyone can have a healthy diet, especially families with young children. There is strong evidence that diet impacts on children’s health, their ability to learn and their life chances as they grow up.
“For too many families, poverty and deprivation are daily barriers to eating healthily. Our plans set out how we can further support families to make healthier choices, ensure the system is as easy as possible to use, while reducing stigma and increasing take-up.”
Rosie Dodds, an independent Nutritionist from First Steps Nutrition Trust, said:
“I warmly welcome these proposals to increase the value of the Healthy Start voucher. Far too many parents with young children experience food insecurity and skip meals to feed their children. I hope there will be many contributions to the consultation as well as work to ensure that all eligible families receive this help to buy healthy foods.”
Maggie Simpson, chief executive of Scottish Childminding Association, said:
“SCMA is pleased to support the proposal to retain free milk for all services providing care to children under five, including childminders. Extending this entitlement to include a healthy snack is something we are very much in favour of.
“Childminders play a key role in encouraging healthy eating, as we know the eating habits developed in early years often continue into adulthood. This is an ideal opportunity for childcare providers to support healthy food choices.”
Access the consultation on Welfare Foods.
Powers over Welfare Foods have been devolved to Scotland under the Scotland Act 2016. These powers have not yet commenced and this consultation seeks views on how to best take forward those powers.