Category: Benefits

How much are Healthy Start vouchers and where can I use them?

How much are they?

Alongside free Healthy Start vitamin supplements if you are eligible for vouchers you will get:

If you are pregnant - £3.10 a week
For each baby aged under one - £6.20 a week (two vouchers)
For each child aged over one but under four - £3.10

The vouchers are sent by post every four weeks and can be used in most supermarkets and local retailers. They do not count towards your income when you work out your entitlement for other benefits and allowances.

What can I spend them on?

Plain cow’s milk – this means only whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, whether pasteurised, sterilised or UHT. You are unable to spend the voucher on any coloured, flavoured, condensed, evaporated or powdered milk (other than infant formula). It also cannot be goat’s, soya or any form of milkshake or vitamin-enriched milk.

Plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg – only whole, chopped, packaged or loose fruit and vegetables, with no added ingredients. Vouchers will not be accepted for any dried, canned, pre-cooked or juiced vegetables or any with added oil, salt, sugar or flavourings such as oven chipped and onion rings.

Infant formula milk – only formula that says on the packaging it ‘suitable from birth’ that is based on cow’s mik. You will not be able to spend the vouchers on formula based on soya or goat’s milk formulas or any follow-on milk suitable for babies aged six months and older. As formula is suitable for babies up to 12 months you can then use the same vouchers to buy cow’s milk from then on.

Where can I use them?

Any shop that is registered as part of the Healthy Start scheme will accept your vouchers. A range of local corner shops, co-ops, market stalls, greengrocers, pharmacies, supermarkets and even milk floats will be happy to swap the coupons for food and drink.

There should be a Healthy Start sticker in the window of the stores if they are registered retailers. Though it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a retailer that accepts the vouchers you can get in touch with Healthy Start to help you find one. If you ask inside and the shop is not registered, you could inform them of the scheme yourself and direct them to the information sheet or HSRU.co.uk website. It’s free for them to register and they are reimbursed by Healthy Start – tell them to call the Healthy Start contact number for more information and an application form.

How to claim Healthy Start vouchers

The application

In order to claim Healthy Start vouchers you will need to fill out part A of the application form in black ink and capitals. You then take the form to either your midwife, health visitor or registered doctor or nurse for them to sign for free.

They should then sign part B, but it is your responsibility to ensure the health professional has signed and dated it properly as if it hasn’t been signed by an approved health professional your application will not be accepted. Do not miss this step!

If you are pregnant they will need to certify you are pregnant or if you have a child you should send the application alongside your child’s birth certificate. Don’t forget to ask your healthcare professional about claiming Healthy Start vitamins, too.

Finally, when you have ensured the information is correct and have provided the supporting documents (outlined below), you can send the form to the following address:

Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR

Healthy Start Issuing Unit

PO Box 1067

Warrington

WA55 1EG

There will be a freepost envelope on the back of the application leaflet if you have filled in a physical copy, otherwise if you have printed the form online you can write the address on the envelope. This is also free so you needn’t buy a stamp.

How to get the application

You can get an application leaflet either by using the Healthy Start contact number and asking a member of the staff to send you one for free by post, or filling in the online form and printing it off to check and sign, or by asking your health visitor or midwife. You can email the blank PDF form of the application to yourself or download it directly from the website, but bear in mind you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file and print it off.

As well as the signature from a health professional and the child’s birth certificate, you will also need to provide evidence of your income and savings, the benefits you already receive and your identity in order to claim the Healthy Start food vouchers and vitamins. They may also ask for your National Insurance number.

The claim starts once the Healthy Start application is received, and they cannot be backdated so ensure you send the form as early as possible to avoid disappointment. As with any other benefit or allowance you should inform the company as soon as your circumstances change. The Healthy Start Food Vouchers service will not continue for you if the qualifying prerequisites are not met.

Do I qualify for Healthy Start vouchers?

Firstly, you must either be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have the minimum of one child under the age of four to qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.

You must also be currently receiving one of the following benefits or tax credits, unless you are pregnant and under the age of 18:

· Income-based JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance)

· Child Tax Credit, if your family’s income is £16,190 per year or less in the 2015/2016 tax year

· Working Tax Credit, if your family is receiving the four-week ‘run-on’ payment

· Income related ESA (Employment and Support Allowance)

· Income support

You do not need to be claiming any of the above to get Healthy Start vouchers if you are pregnant and under 18.

The Working Tax Credit run-on is the money you receive for four immediate weeks after you stop working and therefore no longer qualify for Working Tax Credit. This must be for 16 hours for single adults and 24 hours per week for couples. If you are receiving the normal Working Tax Credit amount you won’t be able to get Healthy Start food vouchers.

If you are not receiving any of the benefits yourself but you live with your partner who is, or you are the dependent child of someone who is, you can still qualify for Healthy Start vouchers.

Remember, as long you meet one of the above conditions you can receive the vouchers and vitamins for children up to age four.

Universal Credit changes

The NHS website say the following about any changes in the future:

“We know that the benefits system is changing and that Universal Credit is being expanded to families. This means that, due to a change in circumstances, you may be assessed for entitlement to Universal Credit instead of the benefits you or your partner were claiming previously. Alternatively you may be new to the benefits system and may be assessed for entitlement to Universal Credit from the start of your claim. Whatever your circumstances, if you are claiming Universal Credit and are pregnant, or have a child under four years old, make sure you call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 or email on helpdesk@tiu.org.uk for information about any discretionary support that may be available.”

What are Healthy Start vitamins?

Healthy Start vitamins are the government’s way to ensure some pregnant women, new mums and small children are getting the essential nutrients they require which their bodies may lack in.

Despite having a healthy and balanced diet, pregnant women often lack in the folic acid and vitamin D that is vital for them and the baby. Young children may also require supplements of vitamin A and D even if they are eating well, so the supplements contain the specific vitamins needed to ensure optimum health.

UK health departments have designed Healthy Start vitamins to suit everyone, so they are suitable for both vegetarian (Vegetarian Society approved) and halal diets and are suitable for those suffering from allergies involving milk, soya, egg, gluten and peanuts.

How to get the vitamins

Healthy Start vitamins are sent every eight weeks to pregnant women, babies from six months to four years old and women with a baby under one – if they qualify for the Healthy Start scheme. If you are eligible you will receive green Healthy Start vitamin coupons alongside your Healthy Start food vouchers.

NHS provide a search tool to locate a Healthy Start vitamins service which you can use here. You are also able to use the Healthy Start contact number to find local distribution points to swap your coupons but your midwife or health visitor should also be able to direct you, too. The availability of free Health Start vitamins is controlled by your health board, health trust or primary care trust.

What do the vitamins contain?


Women’s vitamins contain the following:

· Folic acid

· Vitamin C

· Vitamin D

The supplements will help the mother to maintain healthy tissue and help her body to absorb calcium, which in turn supports the baby’s bones, allows them to develop properly and reduces the chance of it having spina bifida.

Children’s vitamin drops contain:

· Vitamin A

· Vitamin C

· Vitamin D

These vitamins ensure the baby’s bones and teeth develop properly and strongly, as well as maintaining healthy tissue and improving healthy skin, growth and vision in dim light.

When to take the vitamins

For women – during pregnancy and up to one year after giving birth
For children – babies under six months old who are breastfed may benefit; ask your midwife or health visitor about this. Or, babies above six months who have less than 500ml of infant formula per day will get free vitamin drops until they are four.

All you need to know about the benefit cap

If you are an adult aged between 16 and 64 there is a set limit on how much benefit  (including Child Tax Credit) you can claim, also known as 'the benefit cap'. Though some individual benefits are not affected, the total amount of benefit you are entitled to may vary.

The cap applies to the total amount you receive from the following list of benefits and allowances, provided by the GOV.uk website:

· Bereavement Allowance

· Carer’s Allowance

· Child Benefit

· Child Tax Credit

· Employment and Support Allowance (unless you get the support component)

· Guardian’s Allowance

· Housing Benefit

· Incapacity Benefit

· Income Support

· Jobseeker’s Allowance

· Maternity Allowance

· Severe Disablement Allowance

· Universal Credit

· Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widows Pension you started getting before 9 April 2001)

The level of the cap is:

· For couples with or without children at home - £500

· For single parents whose children are at home - £500

· For single adults who don’t have children or children at home - £350

So in essence, some benefits will decrease to ensure your total amount does not exceed the benefit cap level. The fastest and most efficient way to work out if the cap affects you is to use the calculator on the GOV.uk website.

Who isn't affected?

You will not have your benefits affected by the cap if anyone in your household is eligible for Working Tax Credit or receives one of the following:

· Disability Living Allowance

· Personal Independence Payment

· Attendance Allowance

· Industrial Injuries Benefits and equivalent payments as part of a war disablement pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

· Employment and Support Allowance, if you get the support component

· War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension

· War pensions

· Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

· Armed Forces Independence Payment

· If you’re seeing a Jobcentre Plus adviser, Work Programme or Work Choice provider, they’ll continue to help you look for work and get skills you may need for a job.

Other calculators

Replacing the Benefits Adviser service, there are two independent, free and anonymous ways to calculate your benefit entitlements, find out how your benefits will be affected if you begin work and information on how to claim.

Turn2us and entitledto both give information on tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and income-related benefits and how you will be affected if you start work. Entitledto also helps with contribution-based benefits.

You need to be over 18 to use the calculators, and results will not be accurate if you are a student, on strike, living outside the UK, a prisoner, living permanently in a residential care or nursing home or are not a British or Irish citizen.

To use the calculators you will need information about you and your partner’s income, existing benefits and pensions of you and anyone else living in your household, as well as your council tax bill and any other outgoings, such as mortgage and childcare payments. The amount of savings you have will also be taken into account.

A guide to Child Tax Credit payments

As a basic amount, also known as the ‘family element,’ you should be eligible for £545 of Child Tax Credits per year, though you may be able to get extra elements too.

Payment depends on your personal circumstances as well as your income. We’ve outlined the additional elements and rates for the 2015/2016 tax year for you below:

· For each child – up to £2780 per year

· For each disabled child – up to £3,140 on top of the child element

· For each severely disabled child – up to £1,275 on top of both of the above

How am I paid?

As with other benefits, pensions and allowances provided by either government bodies – HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions – the money is paid into the account or building society of the person responsible for the primary care of the child.

Unless you have change in circumstance (of which you must report immediately to the tax credit office), you will be paid either every week or every four weeks from the date of your initial claim until the end of the tax year – 5th April. A change in circumstance includes instances such as the child leaving home, a change in income or the death of you partner – in which case your tax credit can increase or decrease.

The fastest and most efficient way to check out the total amount payable to you as a parent or carer is to use the tax credit online calculator, provided by GOV.uk. There you will be able to check if your income exceeds the threshold to claim tax credits.

As the benefit is dependent on an individual’s circumstance there is no set income limit. If you pay for childcare or you or your partner is disabled, the rate of income that is accepted will be higher than the average £26,100 income for a family with one child.

For more information about the limit of benefit cap applicable to most people aged 16 to 64, ProveICalled have created a handy guide.

How to claim Child Tax Credit and Child Benefits

You are able to order the form needed to claim Child Tax Credit by either using the GOV.uk online tool or by calling the Tax Credit Office though bear in mind the form may take up to two weeks to arrive. However, if you are already claiming any form of tax credits you do not need to complete the form as a member of staff on the contact number should be able to update your claim.

The need to know

· You can only claim Child Tax Credit in one household

· The process of a new claim can take up to five weeks

· You must renew the claim annually

· You can claim at any point in the year

· You are able to apply for Child and Working Tax Credits on the same form

So it goes without saying that you should keep records from the past three years that concern the care of the child and their education, as well as your income, benefits, other tax credits, bills and payslips.

Child Benefits

As soon as a child is born or starts living with you, you are able to claim Child Benefit. However, this type of benefit takes up to 12 weeks if it’s a new claim. No longer than those 12 weeks (or three months) can be backdated so it’s crucial you claim as soon as possible.

To claim, you must complete a Child Benefit claim form (CH2) and send it to the Child Benefit Office address below, alongside the child’s original birth of adoption certificate. If you are not in possession of either certification you can send the form alone and send the supporting certificate when you have it – it’s also possible to order a new certificate if you have lost the original. You do not need either certificate if you are repeating a claim you have already made in the past for the same child.

Send your forms to:

Child Benefit Office (GB)

Washington

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE88 1ZD

Am I eligible for Child Tax Credit?

Eligibility for Child Tax Credit is dependent on two things: the child’s age and whether you are responsible for the child.

The child must be either under 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training. If the former, you are able to claim up until 31st of August after their 16th birthday.

If you claim responsibility for the child they must either live with you all the time, normally live with you as the main carer, keep their belongings at your home, live in an EEA country (or Switzerland) but depend on you financially and have their meals or pocket money paid for by you.

If you are unsure whether you are classed as responsible for the child you can use the Child Tax Credit contact number to check. If you are currently sharing responsibility of a child and are in disagreement with the other party about responsibility, the tax credit office will decide for you.

If the child you are responsible for: gets Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment/Armed Forces Independence Payment or is certified blind, you may qualify for extra Child Tax Credits. You will still receive Child Tax Credit if any of the payments stop because the child is sick in hospital.

Call the Tax Credit helpline to find out more information if you are caring for an adopted or fostered child and you are or are not getting money from your local council; you may find you are still able to claim.

Other important points provided by GOV.uk:

· You don’t need to be working to claim Child Tax Credit

· You can’t claim tax credits and Universal Credit at the same time

· You get money for each child that qualifies and Child Tax Credit won’t affect your Child Benefit

As with many government-sourced benefits from both HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions, you must be in the country for three months before you are able to claim any Child Tax Credit – if you have arrived from an EEA country post-1st July 2014 and do not work.

Use the tax credits online calculator for the fastest and most efficient way in checking your eligibility.

Working Tax Credit complaints and disagreements

I disagree with my tax credit decision

If you think the Tax Credit Office has made the wrong decision about your Working Tax Credit you can ask them to reconsider. Firstly, contact the Tax Credit contact number and a member of their team should check it and change it if it’s incorrect.

If you remain unhappy you are able to request for the decision to be looked into again formally, depending if the tax credit decision was made pre or post 6th April, 2014. If before, double check the date of the decision letter and then either complete the appeal form or write to the office – HMRC will then review the decision. They will contact you and either explain why you are not eligible or amend it if you are. If after, it is possible for you to make the formal request as a ‘mandatory reconsideration,’ if the letter says you can.

To ask for a mandatory reconsideration you must send a form to the tax credit office within 30 days of the decision letter, as the office may only accept late requests in exceptional circumstances.

If you still disagree following the reconsideration you have the right to appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.

I wish to make a complaint about Working Tax Credits

As with many government bodies, there is a variety of reasons you may wish to complain. Whether you have been mistreated, suffered unreasonable delays or they have made mistakes, you are able to call or write to the Tax Credit Office and they will tell you when to expect a response.

· You should have the following handy to do so:

· Your National Insurance number

· Your full name, address and telephone number

· Details of what happened and when

· How you’d like your complaint settled

· The word ‘Complaint’ at the top of your letter

You are able to contact the Independent Adjudicator if you are not satisfied with the outcome and might be able to claim postage or telephone costs if the body admit to errors.

How to claim Working Tax Credit

There are two ways to claim Working Tax Credit; online or by calling the Tax Credits Office.

The application form will take up to two weeks to arrive, but you needn’t claim using this if you are already claiming tax credits as you can just call the helpline who can update your situation. They will ask you for the following, so make sure you have them handy:

· Your National Insurance number (if you have one)

· Your income for the last tax year

· Details of any benefits you get

· Details of any childcare payments

It is possible to claim after starting a new job at any point in the year, though if you are on another form of benefits such as JSA or Income Support you are able to claim a week before you start work. You can use the same form for applying for Child Tax Credit, too.

You should keep hold of any records from the past three years, including bills, payslips, benefits, tax credits, childcare, income and details of your child’s education in order to support your claim – and remember all claims must be renewed once a year.

Employment gaps and leave

If you are in between jobs, get sick pay or are on maternity leave you can still qualify for Working Tax Credits for a certain amount of time. Remember, if you don’t return to your job at the end of your leave you need to contact the Tax Credit Office as they must be notified about any change in circumstance.

The amount of time you get tax credits for is outlined below (provided by the GOV.uk website):

· Lost of left your job – 4 weeks

· On maternity leave – first 39 weeks of leave

· On adoption leave – first 39 weeks of leave

· On paternity leave – for the same period of ordinary paternity

· On additional paternity leave – up to the equivalent 39th week of partner’s leave

· Off sick – the first 28 weeks

· On strike – the first 10 days

· Laid off work – 4 weeks after or if the lay-off becomes indefinite

· Suspended from work – usually the same period of suspension

To qualify for any of this you must have been paid in work, have worked the right number of hours before leave or gao, have got statutory sick pay or equivalent if you were on sick leave. If you are self-employed and are still eligible or statutory sick pay you should still qualify, or if not self-employed and receive benefits that are equivalent, such as ESA or incapacity to work elements of Income Support or National Insurance credits.