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THE Healthy Start scheme run by NHS England provides vouchers for pregnant women and families with a child under four years old on a low income to buy basic food items.

Information about the scheme and how to apply for it can be found at www.healthystart.nhs.uk/ or by calling the national helpline on 0345 607 6823 where families can also apply.

During COVID-19, families applying to the service no longer need to get the application signed by a health professional.

The vouchers can be spent with local retailers to buy milk and milk formula, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and there are also vitamin coupons to swap for free Healthy Start vitamins for those in receipt of certain benefits.

Women who are under 18 and pregnant can also claim even if they don’t get any of the benefits.

Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “It’s really great to know that this change to the Healthy Start scheme has been made during COVID-19.

“If families are struggling to get milk and fresh fruit and vegetables, please take advantage of the scheme. Please ask your health visitor or midwife about the scheme and for an application form or go to the Healthy Start website or helpline directly to apply.”

Foodbanks across Dorset know about the scheme and that forms do not need to be signed by a health professional at this time. They have also been given application forms to distribute to their users who may be eligible.

Dorset Council want to hear from anyone who is struggling to get essentials during this time.

If you live in the Dorset Council area and need help to get essentials such as food call 01305 221000 or visit www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/emergencies-severe-weather/emergencies/coronavirus/community-response/communities-and-volunteering.aspx