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Welfare Food Scheme

Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps the Government has taken to raise awareness of the Welfare Food Scheme amongst pregnant women. (93692)

Awareness of the Welfare Food Scheme has been promoted to pregnant women in a number of ways. The booklet entitled ‘Free Milk for pregnant women’ is widely available in doctors’ surgeries, health clinics, Job Centre Plus offices, Citizens Advice Bureaus as well as through health visitors and midwives. In addition, posters promoting this scheme have also been made widely available. All relevant Department of Health publications refer to the availability of free milk for pregnant women.

The Welfare Food Scheme will become the Healthy Start scheme in November this year. Under Healthy Start, there will be enhanced promotion of the availability of Healthy Start vouchers for all eligible pregnant women including pregnant women under 18. Health professionals will receive an information pack to help them signpost the scheme to relevant families, and help them get the most out of the scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of qualifying pregnant women claim the free vitamins to which they are entitled under the Welfare Food Scheme and Healthy Start. (93693)

The proportion of eligible pregnant women claiming free vitamins cannot be estimated, as there has not been a dedicated women's vitamin supplement available under the Welfare Food Scheme for several years. Pregnant women have been directed to their GP to obtain a prescription for vitamins, if this is required.

Free Healthy Start vitamin supplements for beneficiaries of the scheme are expected to be available for children in late 2006 and for women in mid 2007.

Women's vitamin tablets will be offered to beneficiaries who are pregnant or have recently had a baby. This vitamin supplement will be provided to women for up to 12 months following the birth of their baby. Children will be entitled to vitamin drops from six months to four years under Healthy Start.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many retail outlets in England (a) accept milk tokens under the Welfare Food Scheme and (b) will accept vouchers under the Healthy Start Scheme from November. (93694)

The approximate number of retailers that accept milk tokens in Great Britain is 19,100 of which 15,250 are estimated to be in England. Some of these retailers have multiple retail outlets across Great Britain (GB).

Under Healthy Start the recruitment target for retailers across GB is 35,000 covering over 40,000 retail outlets. Based on the current proportions under the welfare food scheme, the number of participating Healthy Start retailers in England is expected to be about 29,000.

Approximately 1,000 retailers are participating in phase one of Healthy Start, introduced in Devon and Cornwall on 28 November 2005. This compares to 500 registered under the previous welfare food scheme.