From the TUC

Nasty cut to maternity grants

24 Jan 2011, by in Society & Welfare

Today the government published their plans for new regulations on Sure Start Maternity Grants. The Grants help low-income families meet the extra costs of maternity and having a new baby and the government’s plans will stop families qualifying if they already have a child under 16. This will halve the numbers qualifying and cut spending £73 million a year. Measures like this have to go to the statutory Social Security Advisory Committee before they can be introduced and today’s publication includes the SSAC report and the government’s response to the points they made.

The TUC sent the SSAC our views on the proposals. We pointed out that:

  • A cut to maternity benefits must have negative equality implications – it will have the worst effects for women and members of some minority ethnic groups.
  • Large families – which are disproportionately likely to be poor – will be hardest hit, so this change will increase child poverty.
  • It will also hit families with unexpected late additions, second families, migrant families, women escaping violence and families that have come down in the world and never realised that one day they would need means-tested help.

We were glad to see that the SSAC’s report makes these points. They made two main recommendations: either that the government should wait until plans to extend Budgeting Loans to cover maternity costs have been brought in or that the savings should be made by halving the payment, rather than cutting eligibility.

The government’s reply is breathtaking – their answer to the first recommendation is basically that they want their savings now, and they don’t care to wait. On the second, they say they announced this policy back in June and they don’t plan to change it now.

They add that fewer than 10 per cent of second children were born more than five years after the first child. The government has nothing to say about what is to be done for this minority and refuses to accept any  other reason why families may not have items that can be reused for other children.

It’s hard to know which is worse: the hard-hearted unwillingness to consider the likely impact on poverty or the bald-faced insistence that they’ve decided their policy and nothing anyone else says is going to change their mind.

Update: ASDA calculate that parents spend £1,407 in a baby’s first month and £9,152 in the baby’s first year; 72 per cent of pregnant women say their biggest worry is the costs associated with the new baby.

2 Responses to Nasty cut to maternity grants

  1. Tweets that mention Nasty cut to maternity grants | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC — Topsy.com
    Jan 24th 2011, 3:13 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erin McGann, ToUChstone blog, Michael, John Illingworth, Ron Gordon and others. Ron Gordon said: RT @touchstoneblog: Nasty cut to maternity grants http://bit.ly/gMW4Lk >> Very nasty indeed. […]

  2. phill
    Mar 3rd 2011, 12:15 am

    i really cant believe the goverment cancelled the grant,especially witout at least 9-12 months notice as me and my partner were really relying on the grant ,as we simply cant aford all the essentials we need for the newborn to be,its hard enough on benifits without this ontop,and i could see this making the crime rate go up also as fathers who have no choice will do crazy things to supply for there unborn/newborn child if they have no choice ,the only option we have is at present is to get another loan,and as i have been made redundant and am on benifits intrest rates are stupidly high and very hard to pay back on benifits but what choice do we have,and yes we are looking for work before that comment comes up ,not that it would really help