More than 9,000 families across Greater Manchester could be receiving financial help to buy food for their young children but are not doing so.
Analysis by our sister title NationalWorld has shown how many people in the city-region are eligible for the NHS Healthy Start card but not claiming.
The vouchers enable pregnant women or families with children younger than four to get fruit, vegetables, milk and infant formula.
Here’s how you can find out if you are eligible and how to apply for the cards, which could help those on low incomes struggling with the cost of living crisis.
How many people eligible for the cards in Greater Manchester are not claiming?
The data, taken from the NHS, shows the take-up rate for the NHS Healthy Start cards across Greater Manchester.
The lowest uptake was in Oldham, with a rate of 68% of those eligible claiming their vouchers.
That means that 1,246 families could be receiving financial help to buy essentials for their young children but are not doing so.
In Wigan 871 families are missing out, along with 363 in Trafford, 504 in Bury and 2,226 in Manchester.
There are also 747 families that are eligible but not claiming in Tameside, along with 554 in Stockport, 916 in Salford and 819 in Rochdale.
The best take-up rate for Greater Manchester, at 77% is in Bolton.
Even here, though, 850 families could be getting help to buy food, milk and formula and are not doing so.
Altogether the data shows that across the city-region’s 10 boroughs families are missing out on payments to the tune of just over £2m.
In March, across Greater Manchester as a whole, 25,080 families were claiming the NHS Healthy Start vouchers out of the 34,176 who are eligible to do so.
That means that 9,096 families are missing out on help they are entitled to receive.
What has been said about the cards and people not claiming them?
The charity Feeding Britain is campaigning for the Healthy Start scheme to be switched to an opt-out rather than opt-in basis, to ensure the support gets to as many families as possible.
A lack of awareness, the bureaucratic nature of the sign-up process and pride and stigma could all be factors in the low take-up rate, according to Feeding Britain director Andrew Forsey.
The charity says it is urging the Government “in the strongest possible terms” to maximise participation in the scheme – particularly as families struggle to put food on the table during the cost of living crisis.
Whole milk prices in the UK were 12.2% higher in April compared to a year ago, according to the most recent Office for National Statistics Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figures – much higher than overall food inflation, which was 6.7%.
Inflation for fruit stood at 6.2% and for vegetables it was 4.6%.
How do I check if I am eligible for the vouchers and apply?
Women who are pregnant or families with children under four may be entitled to the Healthy Start scheme if they receive certain benefits.
People who are on Universal Credit can apply if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under four, and their monthly take-home pay from employment is £408 or less.
People who get Child Tax Credit can apply if they have at least one child under four and their family’s annual income is £16,190 or less.
You can apply online through the NHS website with your name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and benefit award letter, as well as your baby’s due date letter if you are pregnant.
You can also apply by phone or by email, following the details on the NHS Healthy Start website.