A NEW initiative has been launched by Cornwall Council in partnership with community pharmacies across the county.

This means that more low-income families than ever before will be able to get healthy start vitamins.

However, the turnout for the vitamins has always been historically low, with only two per cent of families that are eligible collecting the vitamins.

Cabinet member for children, wellbeing and public health, Sally Hawken, said: “We are dedicated to ensuring that children have the best start in life and nutrition is a key part of this.

“I am delighted that the community pharmacies are going to make it easier to access the vitamins, so hopefully that will help some families.”

The partnership is with more than 70 pharmacies, meaning it will be easier for people to get access to the vitamins.

This comes at a time where national charities such as Sustain and the Royal Society for Public Health have criticised the wider scheme.

In an open letter to the Health Minister, Matt Hancock, the charities say that in 2018 families failed to access £28.6m of free fruit, vegetables, milk and vitamins that they were entitled to via healthy start vouchers, because ministers spent no money promoting the scheme.

Councillor Hawken added: “Families in Cornwall, who need our help, are not accessing this free food due to a lack of promotion by the government.

“The vouchers should be targeted at families that rely on benefits like Universal Credit as they are worth up to £900 per child over their first four years of life and add at least £3.10 to a family shop per-child per-week.

“The vitamins are a great way to supplement someone’s diet and the benefits can be huge, that’s why we are announcing this partnership and making it easier for families to access this particular part of the scheme.”

Healthy start vitamins are aimed at young children, between new born to four years old, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Healthy start vitamins are important because eight per cent of children under five in the UK don’t have enough vitamin A in their diet and families in lower-income groups tend to have less vitamin C in their diet.

To qualify, a family must be on job seekers allowance, income support or in receipt of other qualifying benefits, which is about 3,500 people in Cornwall.

Every eight weeks families are sent a green vitamin voucher, which they can swap for either healthy start women’s vitamin tablets or healthy start children’s drops across Cornwall.

Councillor Hawken said: “A healthy balanced diet is essential and the fruit, vegetables and vitamins that this scheme provides helps children as they grow.

“I would urge anyone who uses the vouchers, already to take up the free vitamins and anyone on these benefits to speak to their health visitor or midwife to see if they qualify.

“This scheme is designed to help give children the best start in life and we hope that by making it easier to get hold of them, it will encourage more people to take advantage of the scheme.”

Families who need to know more information can discover more at www.healthystart.nhs.uk or by talking to their health visitor.