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Cuts to UK maternity provision must be opposed

31 March 2014

Susy Langsdale

The Valuing Maternity campaign, led by Maternity Action, is raising awareness of the cumulative effect of cuts to maternity benefits. Since 2010, the government has made a succession of changes to benefits leaving pregnant women and new mothers facing increased hardship and difficulty.

The cuts to maternity benefits include:

  • Health in pregnancy grant of £190 (abolished in January 2011)
  • Sure Start maternity grant of £500 (restricted to first child only from April 2011)
  • Child benefit of up to £1,055 per child (drop in real value as no increase with inflation since 2010 and means-tested to exclude families with a higher income earner)
  • Statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance up to £180 per pregnancy (drop in real value from below inflation up-rating)

To examine the effects that these cuts have had on women and their families, the Valuing Maternity campaign have created the Cutbacks Calculator which works out the amount women and their families have lost as a result of the cuts. It takes into account any maternity benefits the woman would have received in 2010 and compares that to the amount they would receive now.

Women have lost from £330 to over £3,000, depending on their circumstances.

Women’s comments on completing the calculator make it very clear that this missed income would have had significant effects on their quality of life.

Here is what some women have said:

Rachel lost £330.92:

"I became a single mother when my son was one. I had to drop my hours to enable me to look after him and cope with the nursery fees. All my money I made working went on nursery fees and my son. I had to move back with my parents just to have help. I now work 2 jobs part time and I am still in a difficult situation where I cannot save for a flat/house or buy or even rent.”

Lianne lost £487.67:

"Any unplanned expenses, or unavoidable ones such as insurance, car costs etc make us feel sick with worry. We wanted 2 children - we're not sure if it's at all possible now. We just couldn't survive. I can't afford not to work, I also can't afford to go back to work and pay childcare. It's impossible."

Katya lost £756.35:

"I went back to work when my oldest was 7 months as we ran out of money. I had hoped to stay at home but it was work or lose our home."

Aisha lost £1080.75:

"We are struggling anyway and this figure would make a huge difference to our quality of life. I am cutting corners wherever I can but after bills, food and fuel, there is nothing left. I have been told I cannot return to my job after my maternity leave so after my last payment in March, things are going to get even worse. I would have to earn more than £70 a day to make finding another job worth putting my children into childcare, and in Cornwall especially, this is highly unlikely."

Grace lost £3,122.75:

"I'm stunned! We do our best to make our money go as far as we can but three children are just expensive!"

It is clear that these cuts to maternity benefits are leaving women "sick with worry", forcing them to make significant changes to their standard of living and forcing them to return to work earlier than they might otherwise want. 

The cuts are making life more difficult for young families and impacting on the health of both mother and baby.

The campaign are keen to hear from women about the impact of cuts to maternity benefits on their lives, and we will be using their stories in our work in parliament and wider awareness raising. 

We are asking mothers and mothers-to-be to use the Cutbacks Calculator on the Valuing Maternity campaign website.

Tweet your responses to @MaternityAction and share the link with your friends.

The Valuing Maternity campaign is a coalition of 21 national unions, parenting groups, women’s organisations and advice agencies working to defend maternity rights and protect maternity services.  The NUJ supports the campaign.

Tags: , equality, maternity, benefits, cuts, women, welfare, parliament uk