Tuesday 26th March 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Written Statements
Read Hansard Text
Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would like to make the following statement on Healthy Start.

Background

Healthy Start is a passported scheme with eligibility being derived from certain qualifying benefits, such as universal credit and child benefit. The uptake percentage for the Healthy Start scheme is calculated by comparing the number of eligible people to the number of beneficiaries (individuals who were eligible and accessing the scheme).

I regret to inform the House that an issue has been identified with the statistics provided that means that the uptake figures used in PQ198857, PQ199201, PQ199480, PQ201335 and PQ9386, and referenced by Viscount Younger in a debate in December 2023, were incorrect.

It is important to state that this issue affected eligibility uptake statistics only; it did not impact any Healthy Start individual applicants, existing beneficiaries, or live claim processes.

Issue

Healthy Start uptake percentage statistics are calculated using information provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP generates potential eligibility statistics through matching DWP benefit data with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) child benefit data. When a new HMRC child benefit data feed was introduced in June 2023, the DWP omitted to add it to the matching process. This means that the figures provided between July 2023 and February 2024 were inaccurate.

Impact

Due to the missing data feed, the Healthy Start statistical data provided has led to an underestimated number of eligible beneficiaries from July 2023 to February 2024; this in turn has led to an overstated estimated uptake percentage for the same period.

It should be noted that while these statistics are a key element for reporting uptake of the Healthy Start scheme, there has been no impact on new claims where volumes have remained stable. The scheme continues to be promoted by NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), which administers the scheme on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), through a variety of publications, social media, exhibits and other routes.

Corrective Action

The DWP has now added the new data feed to the matching process and has provided the updated statistical data for March 2024. Additional checks have been added to ensure the issue does not occur in the future.

The incorrect statistical data has been removed from the NHS Healthy Start website; the revised March figures will be published shortly by the NHSBSA.

Unfortunately, we are unable to publish corrected historical figures as the two systems involved in the matching process do not have the historical data that could be matched.

This issue did not impact any Healthy Start individual applicants, existing beneficiaries, or live claim processes but did affect eligibility uptake statistics. The DWP will continue to work closer with HMRC and DHSC to ensure the quality of this data going forward.

[HCWS389]