Following the launch of the research on Women’s Experiences of the Cost-of-Living Crisis, Siobhán is working with Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick and Dr Alexandra Chapman from Ulster University (who co-wrote the research paper) on a small project to try and raise awareness of the Healthy Start Scheme in Northern Ireland.
During the research, we identified that Northern Ireland has the lowest uptake of the NHS Healthy Start Scheme (55%). Healthy Start provides families with a payment card to buy milk, fruit, and vegetables. To be eligible, you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have at least one child aged under 4 in the household, you must be entitled to means-tested benefits or your take home pay is less than £408 per month. Those eligible are entitled to £4.25 each week of pregnancy from the 10th week onwards, £8.50 per week for children from birth to 1-year-old and £4.25 for each child aged between 1 and 4.
We heard examples of women who participated in the research who had not heard of the Healthy Start Scheme:
“I didn’t realise about Healthy Start. I was entitled from early in my pregnancy but I can’t get it backdated now. No one told me I could have been getting extra money.”
Awareness of the scheme is too low and we hope that this project will involve partnership working with stakeholders, including the Public Health Agency, to support an uptake campaign for this crucial support. A small amount of funding has been secured to create some resources which we hope to distribute to ensure greater awareness of this scheme. We hope to work with a number of Women’s Centres on the resources to ensure that they are accessible and work for women. Raising awareness is particularly important during the current Cost-of-Living Crisis (as the cost of food, milk, formula and nappies has risen significantly) and it is hoped that this will be a positive outcome coming from the Consortium’s research paper.
Ahead of the resources being ready information about the Healthy Start Scheme is available here