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£2.3 million on Best Start Foods still to be spent

People urged to check cards

Families issued with a prepaid card to help with the cost of healthy food shopping have been urged to check they aren’t missing out on part of a total of £2.3 million in payments which have yet to be spent.

Best Start Foods helps eligible people with the cost of buying healthy food and milk when they are pregnant or have a child under the age of three.

The payment is delivered via a prepaid card and is topped up with up to £36 for each eligible child every four weeks.

Since launching in 2019, more than 7,000 of the issued cards have never been activated and over 3,000 have been activated but never used. This means that some cardholders have not spent their payment and may have built up large balances.

Social Security Scotland has already written to some people urging them to look for their cards and encouraging them to check their balances online, at a cash machine or by calling the card issuer allpay. This was supported by an awareness-raising campaign around how to apply for, activate and use the card online and in-store.

Allpay is also writing to a larger group of card holders informing them of their unspent balances.

Best Start Foods is one of five family payments that provide financial support to families with children under the age of 16.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to doing what it can to make sure that money reaches the people who need it most, especially during this cost of living crisis.

“People are entitled to the money which may have built up on their cards. So we are appealing to people who applied for Best Start Foods to look out their card, make sure it’s activated and use their balance.

“They work like any chip and PIN card, and can be used in supermarkets and shops to buy healthy food, milk and formula.”

Shona Singer, Community Participation and Campaigns lead for Aberdeenshire North Foodbank, said: “We know from speaking to the people who use our service that the card can make a huge difference to their lives.

“We support any measure which allows people greater access to affordable healthy food. People could be sitting on sums of money which could help enormously and I’d urge people who think they’ve received a card to look it out, check their balance and start using it.”

Recent figures from allpay show the number of people who have received a card but not activated it is 7039. The number of people who have activated their cards but not spent any money is 3260.

In the 2022/23 financial year, £21.3 million has been paid to Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods clients. Of this, £4.8 million was for Pregnancy and Baby Payment, £3.3 million was for Early Learning Payment, £4.2 million was for School Age Payment and £9.0 million was for Best Start Foods.

The all-time total value of Best Start Grant and Best Start Food payments to 30 November 2022 was £105.8 million.


  • The Scottish Government replaced the UK Healthy Start Voucher scheme in Scotland with Best Start Foods on 12 August 2019
  • The Best Start Foods scheme is a prepaid card that can be used in shops or online to buy healthy food, for example, cow’s milk, first infant formula milk, fruit and vegetables, pulses and eggs. It is:
    • £18 every 4 weeks during pregnancy – the payment amount is per pregnancy. This means the payment amount is the same whether you're pregnant with one baby, or if you're having twins or triplets
    • £36 every 4 weeks from your child being born up until they're one year old, or until the first anniversary of their estimated delivery date (whichever is later)
    • £18 every 4 weeks when your child is between the ages of one and 3 years old
  • To check balance at a cash machine, clients should enter their 4-digit PIN, similar to regular bank card use.
  • Applicants under 18 will be eligible for Best Start Foods during pregnancy and up until their child turns one, without the need to be in receipt of benefits
  • Applicants over 18 or responsible for a child who is older than one need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit. At present, income thresholds also apply for some of these qualifying benefits. These income thresholds will be removed in 2023-24.

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