Views on eligibility for children's vitamins
Question 7 of the consultation document sought respondents' views on whether the provision of children's vitamins (Healthy Start Vitamins) should be linked to eligibility for Best Start Foods, i.e. to eligible low-income families with children up to the age of three.
This chapter includes the following sections:
- Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to link eligibility to Best Start Foods
- Other comments regarding the provision of vitamins.
Both these points will now be discussed in turn.
5.1 Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to link eligibility to Best Start Foods
A majority of respondents who answered this question were opposed to the proposal to link the provision of children's vitamins to eligibility for Best Start Foods. This included a majority of both individuals and organisations. As Figure 3 shows, out of the 119 respondents who answered this question, 48 respondents (40%) agreed that provision of vitamins should be linked to eligibility for Best Start Foods, 60 respondents (50%) disagreed, and 11 respondents (9%) did not provide clear answers.
Figure 3 – The percentage of respondents to question 7 that agreed or disagreed with the proposal to link eligibility for children's vitamins to eligibility for Best Start Foods
Half of respondents to question 7 disagreed with the proposal to link eligibility for children's vitamins to eligibility for Best Start Foods
Amongst those who rejected the proposal, the consensus was that vitamins should be provided universally to all children up to the age of three. This view was also expressed by some respondents who thought vitamins should be universally provided in principle but who, given funding constraints, agreed with the proposal that they should be targeted at Best Start Foods recipients. Reasons given why vitamins should be freely provided to all children up to age three were:
- The argument that children from higher-income families, as well as other children currently not eligible for Best Start Foods, would benefit from vitamin supplements, including Vitamin D supplements. Current health guidance was cited in support 
- The argument that universal provision of vitamins would increase the uptake of vitamins, which is currently poor – this argument was backed up with evidence from Healthy Start in England 
- The argument that the increased cost of providing vitamins universally would be offset by reduced administration costs.
Many respondents who opposed the proposal also disagreed with it on the grounds that they believe vitamins should be available for children aged up to five, rather than three. Again, current health guidance was cited in support for this view.
5.2 Other comments regarding the provision of vitamins
Other comments that were made by a few respondents regarding the provision of free vitamins were:
- Concerns that widespread vitamins were used as a substitute for a healthy diet. These respondents argued that ideally, the need for vitamins should be reduced over time
- The need to expand the distribution points for Healthy Start Vitamins beyond NHS premises, to include supermarkets, pharmacies and community centres
- Ensuring that distribution points have sufficient stocks of vitamins (although with consideration of shelf-life)
- Considering including vitamins in the new Best Start Foods smartcard.
What health professionals, Health Boards and public health organisations said regarding the eligibility of children’s vitamins:
‘I believe that as the latest Government recommendations are that all babies (unless consuming greater than 500mls of formula a day) and children under 5 years old should take Vitamin D supplements as standard, they should be free to all up to the age of 3 at least.’ (Health Visitor)
‘The vitamins should be free up to age three for all children which links with universal health and giving every child in Scotland the best start. There are children from families who are not on low income and would benefit from a supplement - SHS 2016 highlighted the low consumption of fruit and veg by 2-4-year olds.’ (Health Board) ‘Requiring Healthy Start eligibility has been a barrier to uptake of both maternal and child vitamin take up.’ (University of Bristol)
‘Ideally, all young children should be eligible for vitamins regardless of eligibility for the Best Start Foods. However, this would be costly therefore by using age three as the cut off this will reduce the number of children eligible to receive vitamins (the recommendation for continuation of vitamins is age five), however an additional layer would be complicated to navigate, so yes should be linked.’ (Third Sector/Community organisation)