Over 130,000 households miss out on foodbank vouchers ‘due to Brexit fighting’

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More than 130,000 households missed out on free food vouchers last year while the Government “wasted time fighting over Brexit”, health and welfare charities claim.

In a joint letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 26 charities say families entitled to Healthy Start vouchers missed out on £28.6 million of free fruit, vegetables and milk because the scheme was poorly promoted.

The Healthy Start scheme provides young and low-income pregnant women and families with children under four with a weekly voucher for £3.10, entitling them to buy fruit and vegetables, cow’s milk and first infant formula.

Despite a rollout of the scheme, a letter obtained by the Huffington Post and signed by charities including the Trussell Trust, Sustain, the Royal Society for Public Health and the Royal College of Midwives, said the average uptake of the scheme was only 64% across England and Wales in 2018.

The charities, which drew on the findings of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry, are now calling on savings from unclaimed vouchers to be used to help fund an awareness campaign for foodbanks.

The letter said: “An increasing number of people in the UK do not know where their next meal will come from, with an estimated 8.4 million experiencing household food insecurity, including approximately 19% of children in the UK.

“We call on the Government to fund a national programme to ensure that midwives, health visitors, GPs and other relevant staff in health, social care and early years settings actively help all eligible pregnant women and new parents claim the Healthy Start Vouchers.

“We ask you to work with local authorities and the third sector to make sure that no child or expectant mother misses out on this important safety net.”

The charities also called for a meeting with Mr Hancock to discuss their demands.

London had the highest value of unclaimed food, with more than £4.5 million going to waste, while the north east of England wasted the least nationally, at just over £1.3 million.

The shortfall in uptake came in the same year the Government spent £1.5 billion in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andy Buchanan / PA Wire.