§ Maria Eagle
We introduced reforms in 2000 so that entitlement to Maternity Allowance no longer depends on the payment of national insurance contributions. Qualifying conditions for both Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance are based instead on a woman's recent employment and earnings history.
Maternity Allowance is now paid to women earning at least £30 a week, but below the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions (currently £75 a week). As a result, up to 16,000 more low paid women a year can receive improved financial help during their pregnancy.
Sure Start Maternity Grants, worth£500, are also available to help those mothers on low income in greatest need.