Best Start Foods
Best Start Foods is a new Scottish benefit providing help to people and families on low incomes. The benefit is paid to women who are pregnant and families who have children aged up to 3 years old.
It is paid as credit onto a pre-loaded payment card which you can use to buy certain foods. There are 2 rates of payment, either £4.50 a week or £9.00 a week. The amount you get depends on whether you are pregnant and/or how old your child is. You get a payment for each child aged under 3.
You can apply to Social Security Scotland for Best Start Foods.
Best Start Foods won't affect any of your other benefits.
Healthy Start vouchers stopped being paid to people in Scotland on 31 March 2020. You'll now need to apply for Best Start Foods.
All pregnant women in Scotland are entitled to Healthy Start vitamins throughout their pregnancy. You can get these from your midwife.
If you get Best Start Foods, you can also get Healthy Start vitamins for your children up until they reach the age of 4. Ask your midwife or health visitor about how to get the vitamins. There are different arrangements in different areas of Scotland.
You can get Best Start Foods if you are:
- under 18 and pregnant – you need to meet the rules about living in Scotland. You don't need to be getting any benefits and you can apply as soon as you know you are pregnant
- under 18 and responsible for a child under 1 – you need to meet the rules about living in Scotland. You also need to show that you are responsible for your child. For example, you might get child benefit for your child. You don’t need to have a low income or be getting any benefits because of this
- pregnant and aged 18 or older – as well as living in Scotland, you or your partner need to be getting certain benefits to show that you have a low income. Alternatively if you are aged 18 or 19 and still in education or training, someone else who is responsible for you will need to be getting 1 of the benefits. This could be your parent or carer
- responsible for a child aged under 3 – you or your partner need to be getting 1 of certain benefits to show that you have a low income. Alternatively, if you are aged 18 or 19 and still in education or training, someone else who is responsible for you needs to be getting 1 of these benefits, such as your parent or carer. You also need to show that you are responsible for the child. This could be because you get some benefits for the child, or you have adopted the child or are a kinship carer for example.
In most cases, you will be able to get Best Start Foods if you normally live in Scotland and you meet the other conditions for getting the benefit.
You usually need to be getting certain benefits in order to be eligible for Best Start Foods.
If you're not a UK citizen or if you’re a UK citizen who has been living abroad you might not be able to get any of these benefits. So you might not be able to get Best Start Foods (although there is an exception for pregnant women under 18 and people aged under 18 who are responsible for a child under 1).
Get advice if you’re not sure whether you can get Best Start Foods because of residence issues. Read our page about how to get immigration advice.
You or your partner usually need to get 1 of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit – where your income at the time of the award was decided to be less than £16,480 per year
- Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit – where your income at the time of the award was decided to be less than £7,500 or you are being treated as being in full-time paid work
- Housing Benefit – where your income for housing benefit was calculated as being less than £317 per week
- Universal Credit – where your earned income is £625 or less for the most recent assessment period or the 1 before that. The £625 limit applies to both single claims for UC and for joint claimants.
You don't have to be getting 1 of these benefits if you are under 18 or you are aged 18 or 19, still in education or training and your parent or carer gets 1 of these benefits.
If you've applied for 1 of these benefits but not had a decision yet, you can still apply to Best Start Foods. You won't get a decision about whether you can get Best Start Foods, until you get a decision about the other benefit.
If you or your partner gets Universal Credit
If you or your partner gets Universal Credit, you are only eligible for Best Start Foods if your earned income is £625 or less for either the most recent assessment period or the 1 before that.
If your earned income is more than £625 in 1 assessment period, you are no longer eligible for Best Start Foods. You will continue to get the benefit for 8 weeks after the end of the last assessment period when your earned income was less than £625.
If you or your partner stops getting one of these benefits
If you or your partner stops getting one of the qualifying benefits, you must let Social Security Scotland know as soon as possible. If you don’t you could be found guilty of a criminal offence and have to pay a fine. You might also have to pay back any overpayment of Best Start Foods.
If you start getting the benefit again within 12 weeks, tell Social Security Scotland. They can restart your Best Start Foods without you needing to make a new application.
Best Start Foods is paid at different rates depending on whether you're pregnant or how old your child is.
If you're pregnant, you'll get £4.50 a week until your child is born.
Once your child is born, you'll get £9.00 a week until they reach the age of 1. After this you'll get £4.50 a week until they reach the age of 3.
If you have more than 1 child, you'll get payments for each child. There is no limit on the number of children that you can get Best Start payments for.
For example, if you are pregnant and you have a 11 month old child and a 2 year old child, you will get £18.00 a week.
This is made up of £4.50 because you're pregnant, £9.00 for your 11 month old child and £4.50 for your 2 year old.
If you were getting Best Start Foods when you were pregnant, you should tell Social Security Scotland about your child’s birth within 4 months. If you do this, you’ll get Best Start Foods backdated to the date your child was born.
If you were getting Healthy Start vouchers and then applied for Best Start Foods, you may get Best Start Foods until your child turns 4.
Best Start Foods is provided as credit on a payment card which can be used in any shop that sells food. It can only be used to buy certain foods.
What can a Best Start Foods payment card be used for
Best Start Foods payment card can be used to pay for:
- milk – includes long life, pasteurised or ultra-heat treated milk, but not milk with any chemicals, vitamins, flavours or colours added or removed
- first infant formula milk – but not follow on formula milk
- fruit and vegetables – can be fresh, frozen or tinned but can't have any fat, salt, sugar, flavouring or any other ingredient added
- pulses – can be fresh, dried or tinned but can’t have any fat, salt, sugar, flavouring or other ingredient added
- eggs – fresh eggs only.
There is more information about how to use the Best Start Foods payment card on mygov.scot, including how to use it in shops or online and how to check your Best Start Foods balance.
You can apply:
- online – on the Social Security Scotland website
- by phone – by phoning 0800 182 2222 (8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday)
- by post – download an application form from mygov.scot or phone Social Security Scotland and ask for one to be posted to you.
The application process for Best Start Foods is the same as for the Best Start Grant.
The Best Start Grant is a package of 3 payments which low income families might qualify for at different points in their children's lives:
- the Pregnancy and Baby Payment - for someone who is over 24 weeks pregnant or has a baby aged up to 6 months
- the Early Learning Payment - for someone who has a child aged between 2 and 3 and a half
- the School Age Payment - for someone with a child who is school-starting age.
You only need to apply once for the Best Start Grant and for the Best Start Foods. The 1 application is used for both benefits.
Read more about applying for the Best Start Grant.
Challenging a Best Start Foods decision
If you don't agree with a decision about Best Start Foods, you can phone Social Security Scotland to ask it to look again at the decision. You must do this within 31 days of the date that you found about the decision not to give you Best Start Food payments.
Social Security Scotland must then review its decision within 16 working days.
There is no right of appeal if you still don't agree with the review decision.
If you're paid too much Best Start Foods
If you're paid too much Best Start Foods, Social Security Scotland will decide if you have to pay the money back. It will look at the details of why you were overpaid when it makes its decision.
If you know that you're not entitled to Best Start Foods, perhaps because you're not getting a qualifying benefit any more, you must tell Social Security Scotland as soon as possible. If you don't, you could be committing a criminal offence. If found guilty, you could be sent to prison or given a fine.
If your circumstances change
You’ll need to tell Social Security Scotland if your circumstances change. This includes if:
- your other benefits stop, like Universal Credit
- your personal details change, like your name or address.
Find out more and check how to report a change of circumstances on mygov.scot.