Half of low income Lewisham families eligible for Healthy Start vouchers are missing out, new figures reveal.

The vouchers help families with the costs of essentials like fruit, vegetables, milk and infant formula.

Pregnant women on a low income or under the age of 18, and children aged between one and four in households receiving certain social security benefits are all eligible for one £3.10 Healthy Start voucher per week.

Children under one year old are entitled to two £3.10 vouchers each week.

But data obtained from the NHS Business Services Authority shows only 48 per cent of eligible households in Lewisham are taking up the vouchers.

This also comes as the number of three-day emergency food parcels handed out in the year ending March jumped by 27 per cent compared to the previous year.

The latest Trussell Trust data shows 7816 three-day emergency food parcels were handed out in Lewisham – with 2857 going to children.

This also comes amid reports the annual government spend on the vouchers has almost halved between 2011 and 2018.

Lewisham and Greenwich London Assembly Member, Len Duvall, said the voucher’s value should go up in line with rising food costs. 

“It is alarming to see declining Government investment and local engagement in the scheme at time when so many local families are struggling to put food on the table,” he said.

“In recent years, the Government have failed to resource or put measures in place to sufficiently promote the scheme, effectively allowing it to slide down to the bottom of the list of their priorities.

“We are also in danger of this vital scheme becoming increasingly unfit for purpose with the value of the vouchers not being increased to keep up with rising food costs for almost a decade”.

He said more “robust interventions” were needed from the Government to ensure more people take up the scheme.