'Hundreds missing out on food vouchers' says senior Labour councillor for the Banbury area
A senior Labour councillor has is urging people on low incomes, pregnant Mums and parents of young children to claim food vouchers, claiming hundreds are missing out on their entitlements.
Cllr Sean Woodcock, who is leader of the Labour group on Cherwell District Council, said the Healthy Start means-tested scheme provides the vouchers but take up in the Cherwell district is going down.
"According to the scheme's own figures take up in Cherwell has decreased from above 60 per cent in 2015 to less than 45 per cent at the beginning of this year," he said.
"This is financial help that hundreds of people in Banbury and Bicester and the wider area are entitled to but are not getting. At such a difficult time for so many, this can't be right."
Mr Woodcock urged people to visit the scheme's website here and find out whether they qualify and how to get help. He said he is urging Cherwell District Council to do more to promote the scheme.
Councillor Andrew McHugh, Lead Member or Health and Wellbeing at Cherwell District Council, said: “Healthy Start is soon to be promoted on the Cherwell District Council website with proactive communications work and I have been working to try to understand why eligible Cherwell residents are not taking up this offer, which is a national NHS scheme up until now promoted through health visitors and midwives who are in direct contact with those eligible.
“We agree with Cllr Woodcock that encouraging women to access the vouchers for vitamins for new-borns or fresh fruit and veg as the children get older is important.
"We think getting a healthy start is vital and our wider track record as a council of providing community support is a very good one. I have been in contact with Oxford Health about how this programme can be better promoted.
"I have also been in touch with Health Start to request numbers in Cherwell by postal district who are eligible but who have not taken up the scheme. This will enable us to target promotion of the scheme where it is most needed.
"Today, I met with the Director of Public Health to put this issue ‘on the agenda’ and I will be raising awareness of the scheme at the Health Improvement Board and the Health and Wellbeing Board.
"Take up across the country and the rest of Oxfordshire is less than 50 per cent. All local authorities across the country need to work with their health partners to make sure this vital benefit reaches those in need.”