This week, he wrote to the British Medical Journal asking health professionals to promote Healthy Start which provides good food and other support to families on benefit with children under four, and during pregnancy.
I would very much appreciate it,” wrote Mr Rashford, “if you would consider collaborating with us on communicating and educating people about the scheme. A true difference can only be made via a grassroots approach.” Forty per cent of those eligible do not apply.
I found his next sentence striking: “The majority of these parents can be found in communities just like mine, where I grew up – no internet, no high street, no word of mouth”. How often is that category considered in campaigns to inform the public about anything?
Healthy Start applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland while there is a different scheme in Scotland, paying the same food benefits, called Best Start. I suppose we have to be different though unified messaging would do no harm. We too need Marcus Rashford.
Uptake is a huge, wider issue with £20 billion in means-tested benefits unclaimed each year, suggesting up to £2 billion in Scotland. Here as much as anywhere, we should respect Marcus Rashford’s wise advice …. “a grassroots approach” aimed at people with “no internet, no high street, no word of mouth”.
This is surely an area in which we could do better and really make a difference for those who need it most – simply by delivering their entitlement.