HC Deb 28 February 2001 vol 363 cc710-1W
Ms Glenda Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to change conditions of eligibility for asylum seekers to apply for maternity provision; [150967]

(2) in which languages advice for asylum seekers making an application for maternity benefits is published; [150963]

(3) what plans he has to change the provision afforded to asylum seekers who apply for maternity grants; [150966]

(4) what assistance is afforded to asylum seekers wishing to make an application for maternity benefits. [150962]

Mrs. Roche

[holding answer 26 February 2001]: In line with the maternity grant paid from the social fund to those on low incomes, the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) on 13 November 2000 introduced a maternity payment for eligible asylum seekers. The mother or father completes an application form within the time scale to qualify. The voluntary sector one-stop shops will assist asylum seekers to complete the maternity payment application form if required.

There are no plans to change the conditions of eligibility. We consider that the NASS application time scale is reasonable. This allows asylum seekers to apply for the maternity payment between one month before the estimated date of delivery and two weeks after the birth. Additionally, a payment may be made if a child was born outside the United Kingdom to a person who, on application, qualifies for NASS support and the child is three months of age or less.

Written advice on applications for the maternity payment is available from the NASS in English. The voluntary sector one-stop shops are funded by the Home Office to provide relevant advice in other languages to asylum seekers if required.

There are no plans at present to change the NASS maternity provision. However, the Government are currently reviewing the operation of the NASS voucher scheme. If serious problems are found they will be properly addressed.