Milk tokens. If you ever used these, it was probably because you or your family weren’t well-to-do. In recent years, these have been transformed into ‘Healthy Start’ vouchers, though they are still given to people who are pregnant, or who have children under the age of four. According to the Health Start Scheme, you qualify if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get:
- Income Support, or
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
- Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2014/15).
I decided to look a bit more into this and see how many vouchers have been given out to people locally – I remember them growing up in a working class area, so it would be interesting to see if these are still as widespread given the onslaught of austerity and the impact it is having on communities.
BtP asked the Scheme to outline how many vouchers had been redeemed in NI since 2007/8 when the milk token scheme was changed, and to outline the total cost of vouchers redeemed here in the same period.
Since 2007/8, vouchers to the value of £25.2m have been redeemed here. Whilst this might seem a lot, the actual number of vouchers issued in NI since April 2008 shows the prevalence of these vouchers across NI.
From 2008 until 2010, one million vouchers were issued each year to recipients in NI. From 2010 until 2013, this rose to 1.1 million. The figure from 2014 until 2015 also 1 million.
Whilst the scheme is means-tested and for those on specific benefits, it could be argued that the number of vouchers issued to NI by the UK Department of Health in this period shows a steady uptake by those eligible and therefore a steady number of people primarily in working class areas in need of this support.