§ Mrs. Faith
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has for the future of maternity benefits.
§ Mrs. Chalker:
A consultative document, "A Fresh Look at Maternity Benefits" has been published today by the Department. Copies are available in the Vote Office. The document discusses cash provision for maternity in the light of the Government's proposals for employers to pay sick-pay. It sets out three possibilities for change, which are now for open discussion and comments. These possibilities are:to concentrate all the available resources on raising the grant from £25 to about £140. This would mean no statutory weekly payments of any kind for maternity from either DHSS or employers.193Wto retain the £25 grant and to replace the existing weekly payments by one of £30 a week for about 13 weeks by employers (who would be re-imbursed). DHSS maternity allowance would remain for women without an employer, but who would currently qualify.
to abolish the maternity pay provisions and either increase the DHSS maternity allowance from its present £18.50 to around £24.50 or increase the maternity grant from £25 to about £80, leaving the DHSS maternity allowance at its current level.
The Government have no firm views on changing the existing provision. We want to listen to the views of outside bodies, and will listen to any suggestions which do not involve additional overall expenditure.
The Green Paper* on sick-pay published in April mentioned that the existing provisions for maternity benefits would have to be reviewed to see how they would fit in with the new proposals for sick-pay.
Impetus has also been given to the Government's consideration of maternity provision by the report on perinatal and neonatal mortality by the parliamentary Social Services Committee. This recommended that the whole question of maternity benefits should be looked at again to see whether the large sum of money involved could be spent to better effect.
* Income During Initial Sickness: A New Strategy (Cmnd 7864).