How Blackpool increased Healthy Start take-up by almost 10% in under a year

Hannah Connell, External Affairs Manager, explains how Blackpool Better Start rapidly increased Healthy Start sign-ups.

Hannah Connell

In March 2022, data released by the NHS showed that only 63% of eligible parents in Blackpool were receiving Healthy Start vouchers. This was below the national average and with the town suffering from high levels of deprivation, it became a priority for Blackpool Better Start to increase take-up so that families were given more financial support during the cost-of-living crisis.

The first steps in addressing this was to understand why our families were not claiming Healthy Start and find out what barriers they were facing. Research on social media and through face-to-face discussions found that there were two main issues: there was a general lack of awareness around the benefit scheme, and confusion about whether families qualified; families also found the application forms complicated to complete and claims were being rejected despite families being eligible.

A strategy was developed to tackle these barriers using the peer-to-peer Community Connector service. This a team of local parents who help signpost families to services in the town, and who are a trusted and visible presence in community venues. Within the team, Money Saving Connector roles were created and given basic training on cost-of-living and money saving tips using Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website. This meant that the Connectors could talk to families about benefit entitlements and offer practical help with completing forms.

A digital campaign was launched on Facebook using films of Money Saving Connectors answering frequently asked questions and signposting to Blackpool Better Start’s Healthy Start webpage Healthy Start - Blackpool Better Start. The webpage was designed to tackle the difficulties families face with completing the forms by giving step-by-step advice and highlighting why eligible applications get rejected. In addition to this, an email campaign was sent to a database of 1600 families to raise awareness of the scheme and signpost to the webpage. Between March 2022 and January 2023, the page received a total of 1008 views, with visitors spending an average time of 2mins 26 seconds on the page.

In summer 2022, Blackpool Better Start launched weekly ‘Cost-of-Living Drop-Ins’ at community venues across the town. This provided our Money Saving Connectors with a fantastic opportunity to speak to families face to face about Healthy Start and give hands on support with completing forms and signposting to financial support available by partner organisations.

The impact of the peer-to-peer support, as well as the social and digital campaigns, has resulted in Blackpool increasing Healthy Start sign-ups to 72%. Blackpool is now the fourth highest area in England for uptake and is well above the national average of 62%. The challenge now is to reach the 630 eligible families who are still not accessing the benefit, and we will be continuing to do this through a weekly timetable of cost-of-living events, and through promotion of the scheme through social and digital channels.

Blackpool Better Start is a 10-year programme that gives every new baby in Blackpool a better start in life. The £45 million investment from the National Lottery Community Fund is used to improve speech and language, diet and nutrition, and social and emotional development of 0-4s across the town. To sign up for a future Healthy Start training webinar, please contact

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.