08/03/2011 21:22 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mums Swap Fruit And Veg Tokens For Cigarettes And Alcohol

fruit and veg A Government report has found that some mums on benefits use their Healthy Start fruit and vegetable tokens for cigarettes and alcohol.

Mums-to-be and new mothers are given the vouchers - which are worth in excess of £300 a year - to help them provide healthy diets for their families.

But a survey undertaken by the Government across 2,000 retailers, health professionals and recipients, has revealed more than one in five respondents know of shops which had exchanged the tokens for items outside the scheme, such as tobacco and alcohol, nappies, baby products, general groceries, bread, eggs and meat.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told The Sunday Telegraph: 'Healthy Start gives help to the most disadvantaged in our society. More than half a million pregnant women, babies and small children in very low income and disadvantaged families benefit from the programme.

'Voucher misuse is rare and is dwarfed by the benefits. We are working with retailers to drive it down still further. We issue over 2.6 million vouchers a month and get less than 15 reports a month of retailers accepting vouchers for products that are not included in the scheme. We follow all of these up.'

The Healthy Start programme is due to be extended from April, when frozen vegetables and fruit will be included in the scheme.

What do you think about this story?

Do you approve of Healthy Start, or do you think it is a huge waste of tax payers money?
Will such schemes always be open to abuse?
Have you ever swapped a HS voucher for something other than fruit or veg?