Rule changes extend eligibility for help with food shopping

Rule changes extend eligibility for help with food shopping

Changes to a key Scottish Government benefit will see an estimated 20,000 people able to access money to help with the cost of food shopping for the first time.

Rule changes around eligibility for Best Start Foods came into force on Monday, February 26, extending eligibility by making it easier to qualify.

Best Start Foods, which was paid to more than 46,000 people in 2022/23, is money every four weeks to help pay for healthy food from pregnancy until a child turns three.

It’s delivered on a pre-paid chip and pin card which can be used in most stores and online.

Before the changes which come into force today, it was paid to people who receive qualifying benefits as long as their incomes did not pass certain limits.

Those income thresholds have now been removed in a move which means thousands more will be able to successfully apply for a card.

Other rule changes have made it simpler for eligible young parents to receive the benefit.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This is an important day for the Scottish Government in terms of our mission to tackle poverty and protect people from harm.

“In 2024-25 we are committing a record £6.3 billion for benefits expenditure, providing support to over 1.2 million people.

“This is £1.1bn more than the UK Government gives to the Scottish Government for social security, demonstrating our commitment to tackling poverty.

“Making this investment allows us to take measures like the one which comes into force today - giving critical help with buying healthy foods to those who need it most.

“It will further benefit the whole economy when cards are used and the cash is spent.”

The changes were welcomed by charity Edinburgh Community Food Aid Network.

Chief executive officer, Brenda Black, said: “The importance of nourishing food for both mother-to-be and infant cannot be overstated: the first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucial for growth, development, and long-term health.

“We welcome the positive changes in ‘Best Start Foods’ to help thousands of extra families in Scotland access a healthier diet.

“Edinburgh Community Food’s team of skilled nutritionists promotes Best Start Foods’ within our communities, to improve and sustain the health and wellbeing of future generations of Scots.”

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