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Best Start Foods

This advice applies to Scotland

What is Best Start Foods

Best Start Foods is a new Scottish benefit providing help to people and families on low incomes. The benefit is paid to women who are pregnant and families who have children aged up to three years old.

It is paid as credit onto a pre-loaded payment card which you can use to buy certain foods. There are two rates of payment, either £4.25 a week or £8.50 a week. The amount you get depends on whether you are pregnant and/or how old your child is. You get a payment for each child aged under three.

You can apply to Social Security Scotland for Best Start Foods.

Best Start Foods replaces the UK wide Healthy Start vouchers for new claims in Scotland from 12 August 2019.

Best Start Foods won't affect any of your other benefits.

If you are getting Healthy Start vouchers

If you live in Scotland and you are getting Healthy Start vouchers, you can apply for Best Start Food payments on or after 12 August 2019.

Letters will be sent out inviting you to apply for Best Start Foods payments between 19 August 2019 and December 2019. However, you don't need to wait for the letter before applying to Best Start Foods.

Healthy Start vouchers will stop being paid to people in Scotland after 31 March 2020. So you'll need to transfer to Best Start Foods before then. 

Best Start Foods payments are paid at a higher rate than Healthy Start vouchers, and are usually only paid for children up to the age of three. This is a change from Healthy Start vouchers which are paid for children up to the age of four. If you move over from Healthy Start vouchers when your child is two or older, you will carry on getting Best Start Foods until your child turns four to make sure you won't be worse off.

Healthy Start vitamins

All pregnant women in Scotland are entitled to Healthy Start vitamins throughout their pregnancy. You can get these from your midwife.

If you get Best Start Foods, you can also get Healthy Start vitamins for your children up until they reach the age of four. Ask your midwife or health visitor about how to get the vitamins. There are different arrangements in different areas of Scotland.

There is more information about Healthy Start vitamins on the Healthy Start website.

Who can get Best Start Foods

 You can get Best Start Foods if you are:

  • under 18 and pregnant – you need to meet the rules about living in Scotland. You don't need to be getting any benefits and you can apply as soon as you know you are pregnant
  • under 18 and responsible for a child under one – you need to meet the rules about living in Scotland. You also need to show that you are responsible for your child. For example, you may get child benefit for your child. You don’t need to have a low income or be getting any benefits because of this
  • pregnant and aged 18 or older – as well as living in Scotland, you or your partner need to be getting certain benefits to show that you have a low income. Alternatively if you are aged 18 or 19 and still in education or training, someone else who is responsible for you will need to be getting one of the benefits. This could be your parent or carer
  • responsible for a child aged under three – you or your partner need to be getting one of certain benefits to show that you have a low income. Alternatively, if you are aged 18 or 19 and still in education or training, someone else who is responsible for you needs to be getting one of these benefits, such as your parent or carer. You also need to show that you are responsible for the child. This could be because you get some benefits for the child, or you have adopted the child or are a kinship carer for example. 

Rules about living in Scotland 

In most cases, you will be able to get Best Start Foods if you normally live in Scotland and you meet the other conditions for getting the benefit. 

You usually need to be getting certain benefits in order to be eligible for Best Start Foods.

If you're not a UK citizen or if you’re a UK citizen who has been living abroad you may not be able to get any of these benefits. So you may not be able to get Best Start Foods (although there is an exception for pregnant women under 18 and people aged under 18 who are responsible for a child under one).

Get advice if you’re not sure whether you are able to get Best Start Foods because of residence issues. Read our page about how to get immigration advice. 

Which benefits do you need to be getting

You or your partner usually need to get one of the following benefits: 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit – where your income at the time of the award was decided to be less than £16,190 per year
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit – where your income at the time of the award was decided to be less than £7,320 or you are being treated as being in full-time paid work 
  • Housing Benefit – where your income for housing benefit was calculated as being less than £311 per week
  • Universal Credit – where your earned income is £610 or less for the most recent assessment period or the one before that. The £610 limit applies to both single claims for UC and for joint claimants.

You don't have to be getting one of these benefits if you are under 18 or you are aged 18 or 19, still in education or training and your parent or carer gets one of these benefits.

If you've applied for one of these benefits but not had a decision yet, you can still apply to Best Start Foods. You won't get a decision about whether you can get Best Start Foods, until you get a decision about the other benefit. 

If you or your partner are getting Universal Credit

If you or your partner are getting Universal Credit, you are only eligible for Best Start Foods if your earned income is £610 or less for either the most recent assessment period or the one before that.

If your earned income is more than £610 in one assessment period, you are no longer eligible for Best Start Foods. You will continue to get the benefit for 8 weeks after the end of the last assessment period when your earned income was less than £610.

If you or your partner stop getting one of these benefits

If you or your partner stop getting one of the qualifying benefits, you must let Social Security Scotland know as soon as possible. If you don’t you could be found guilty of a criminal offence and have to pay a fine. You might also have to pay back any overpayment of Best Start Foods. 

If you start getting the benefit again within 12 weeks, tell Social Security Scotland. They can restart your Best Start Foods without you needing to make a new application. 

How much is the Best Start Foods

Best Start Foods is paid at different rates depending on whether you're pregnant or how old your child is.

If you're pregnant, you'll get £4.25 a week until your child is born.

Once your child is born, you'll get £8.50 a week until they reach the age of one. After this you'll get £4.25 a week until they reach the age of three.

If you have more than one child, you'll get payments for each child. There is no limit on the number of children that you can get Best Start payments for.

For example, if you are pregnant and you have a 11 month old child and a two year old child, you will get £17.00 a week.

This is made up of £4.25 because you're pregnant, £8.50 for your 11 month old child and £4.25 for your two year old. 

If you were getting Best Start Foods when you were pregnant, you should tell Social Security Scotland about your child’s birth within 4 months. If you do this, you’ll get Best Start Foods backdated to the date your child was born.

If you were getting Healthy Start vouchers and then applied for Best Start Foods, you may get Best Start Foods until your child turns four.

Best Start Foods is provided as credit on a payment card which can be used in any shop that sells food. It can only be used to buy certain foods.

If you were getting Healthy Start vouchers before 12 August 2019 

If you were getting Healthy Start vouchers, you'll need to apply for Best Start Foods.

If your child is aged two or more when you start getting Best Start Foods, you will continue to get Best Start Foods until your child reaches the age of four years old. Although Best Start Foods is usually only paid until children reach the age of three, children in these circumstances will continue to get Best Start Foods until they reach the age of four. This is to make sure that you are not any worse off under the new benefit. 

What can a Best Start Foods payment card be used for 

Best Start Foods payment card can be used to pay for: 

  • milk – includes long life, pasteurised or ultra-heat treated milk, but not milk with any chemicals, vitamins, flavours or colours added or removed
  • first infant formula milk – but not follow on formula milk
  • fruit and vegetables – can be fresh, frozen or tinned but can't have any fat, salt, sugar, flavouring or any other ingredient added
  • pulses – can be fresh, dried or tinned but can’t have any fat, salt, sugar, flavouring or other ingredient added
  • eggs – fresh eggs only.

How to apply for Best Start Foods

 You can apply:

  •  online – on the Social Security Scotland website
  • by phone – by phoning Social Security Scotland
  • by post – application forms are available to download on the mygov.scot website or you can phone Social Security Scotland and ask for one to be posted to you.

Social Security Scotland's contact details are:

Social Security Scotland - Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods
PO Box 10300
Dundee
DD1 9FU

Tel: 0800 182 2222

The application process for Best Start Foods is the same as for the Best Start Grant.

The Best Start Grant is a package of three payments which low income families may qualify for at different points in their children's lives:

  • the Pregnancy and Baby Payment - when someone is pregnant or has a baby aged up to 6 months (this can be extended to one year in some circumstances
  • the Early Learning Payment - when the child is aged 3 or 4 and may be attending nursery or some type of early learning provider, and
  • the School Age Payment - when the child is school starting age.

You only need to apply once for the Best Start Grant and for the Best Start Foods. The one application is used for both benefits.

Read more about applying for the Best Start Grant.

Challenging a Best Start Foods decision

If you don't agree with a decision about Best Start Foods, you can ask Social Security Scotland to look again at the decision. You must do this within 31 days of the date that you found about the decision not to give you Best Start Food payments.

Social Security Scotland must then review its decision within 16 working days.

There is no right of appeal if you still don't agree with the review decision.

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