Valeman Bob Doris wanted to know how best start foods has supported children and families who are living on a low income. 

By Bill Heaney

Vale of Leven man Bob Doris has been championing the cause of low income families in the Scottish Parliament.

The Maryhill MSP asked for an update on how best start foods has supported children and families who are living on a low income.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville,  told him: “The best start foods scheme provides direct financial support to low-income families on certain benefits to ensure that healthy foods are part of their family’s diet. We are building a benefits system in Scotland that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

“The devolved best start foods scheme has ended the stigma associated with the United Kingdom paper voucher system by replacing it with a payment card, which can be used like a regular debit card. The scheme has increased the level of payment that is provided to recipients, and it offers more choice by including a wider range of foods for families to purchase and increased access to a wider range of retailers.

“Uptake of the scheme increased to around 75 per cent in 2019-20, compared with a take-up rate of 58 per cent for healthy start vouchers. Since August 2019, we have invested £11.7 million to ensure that children and families have access to healthy foods through the best start foods scheme.”

Mr Doris, who went to St Patrick’s High School, Dumbarton, said: “The best start foods scheme has been a clear success. That said, I have been working with the Glasgow north baby food bank in an effort to end double delivery charges by supermarkets for families who use the scheme.

“I welcome the fact that, following my representations, Social Security Scotland is in discussion with supermarkets in an attempt to have additional online service charges for those families removed. Such charges are often imposed because of the low value of an online order.

“I also welcome the fact that it emerged during those discussions that Tesco and Iceland have developed offers and discounts for families who use the best start foods scheme, but those might need to be better advertised in the future.

“It would be a hugely positive step if supermarket chains across Scotland eliminated double delivery charges, as well as offering a range of discounted or free products for families who use the best start foods scheme?”

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Shirley-Anne Somerville replied: “I recognise the issue that Bob Doris has raised, and I thank him for again bringing it to my attention. We will continue our engagement with retailers on delivery charges in an attempt to find solutions whenever possible.

“It is particularly welcome that certain supermarkets have been offering special deals to those who have been on the best start foods scheme. That is obviously fundamentally a choice for the retailers themselves, but it has given welcome assistance to those who are in receipt of best start foods, particularly at this difficult time.

“I encourage other retailers to look at such deals and those retailers that already have them to extend them, particularly as the crisis goes on. I also thank those retailers for looking at what can be done to assist people at this time.”

Shopping in the LIDL supermarket in Castle Street, Dumbarton. Picture by Bill Heaney

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