Maternity Leave, Baby’s Mental Health & Childcare – What’s Needed from this General Election!

To all of the political parties,

I was surprised, as were most I think, at the announcement for a General Election in June this year. So, today I have a heartfelt plea for you all – Save Motherhood, Save Childhood, Save Childcare – the most important manifesto points for the long-term future of our country…

We are forcing women to choose between being a caregiver OR a bread-winner  –

Motherhood is a right, it is not an inconvenience

Please, if you want the support of parents, those planning a family and just as importantly the childcare industry (that is currently in crisis and breaking point), include these points in your election manifesto:

  • Increase paid maternity leave to allow and recommend mums to start their SMP leave at least 8 weeks prior to their expected delivery date
    • this would work to alleviate the growing trend of ante-natal maternal stress that can and does have a direct effect on the brain development and mental health of the unborn baby
    • this would also work to alleviate the growing trend of ante-natal depression leading to lasting mental health concenrs
    • most importantly it would work to alleviate the growing trend of premature births – the final 12 weeks of a baby’s development in utero (third trimester) is the most important for brain development and future mental health – stress at work being blamed for the premature birth, neonatal death or subsequent mental health or wellbeing concern of a baby, is a ‘court case’ waiting to happen!
  • Provide an option for paid ‘parental’ leave up to the baby’s first Birthday, to allow both parents the opportunity to share the care of their baby for the first year in a way that supports their individual family –
    • this would work to alleviate the ever-increasing post-natal depression in new mums
    • this would also work to alleviate the more recent trend of post-natal depression in dads
    • this would most importantly, work to alleviate the potentially damaging increase in baby’s separation anxiety and subsequent mental health issues and developmental delays caused by mums currently returning to work at 7-9 months because of current SMP rules
  • Change the current (grossly unfair and damaging) 15hours Free Education & 30hours Free Childcare policies, and other tax/child benefit systems and instead – Provide a graduated voucher system for ‘parental services’ that give both parents access to information and workshops for example, from pregnancy through to school age. This would give parents a choice of using the entire voucher on ‘free’ Government services or as a ‘contribution’ towards private company provided services – parental choice.
    • Parental services being – ante-natal services and classes, birthing services, post-natal support and classes, parenting support classes, child development groups and classes (up to 5 years) etc.
      • 3 & 4 year olds do NOT need 15 hours of nursery education (let alone 30hrs!) what is desperately needed instead is access to parenting & development courses from pregnancy through to 5 years (when the children then, and only then, should attend school) and the above ‘developmental groups and classes, to allow parents a choice of being at home with their child(ren) yet still providing them with the tools to do so
    • this would enable parenting choice and alleviate the pressures on an already exhausted NHS system
    • this would also ensure we as a country as supporting and not damaging, as we currently are, the brain development and mental health wellbeing of our next generation
    • this would also tackle the drastically and worrying increase in child development regression in all family demographics
    • importantly this would support the much-needed childcare industry instead of contributing to its destruction
  • Provide a fair voucher system to all families wanting to return to work to support their childcare choices
    • Giving a set voucher cost to parents of all 0 – 5yrs (not the current 3&4 yr olds system) would better support the entire childcare industry
    • Parents would have a choice as to when they returned to work and would receive financial support at a time when they need it the most
    • this would also mean a stronger, more dedicated and efficient workforce knowing that working is a choice and not just a necessity
    • support the childcare industry the Government needs in order to in turn support the workforce it so desperately relies on
  • Define the line between ‘education from 5 years’ in a school setting AND ‘child care & development before 5 years’
    • children should not be in a school setting before the age of 5 years, it is damaging to their overall wellbeing, development and long-term education – they should however have access to a parental choice of ‘developmental classes’ or regulated childcare.
    • Blurring the lines (because of budget pressures) between care and education means children are entering a formal education based setting which is damaging to their long-term development and in particular their mental health and schools are not focussed on what they do best – educating
    • This would stop the current trend of ‘fighting’ over the same children. Children under 5 years should either be with their parents accessing supportive developmental groups and/or in a regulated childcare setting (nursery, childminder, nanny – all childcare should be regulated fairly). Only children 5 years and over should be in an educational school setting.
  • Make childcare zero rated for VAT
    • This would take immediate financial pressure from the childcare industry and therefore reduce the need for increased fees – again supporting those families wishing to return to work, maintain a career and provide for their family independently!

Ultimately, what this country desperately needs to secure its future, is a willing and healthy workforce and to do that we need to support both parents in their parenting journey and ensure their babies and young children have the best possible start in life in the most crucial time of brain developmental, mental health well-being and over-all early years development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Background Information

  • There has been a steady decline in maternity services to new mums –
    • The Royal College of Midwives 2016 “State of Maternity Services Report” states – Our current calculation is that the NHS in England is short of the equivalent of around 3,500 full- time midwives.
    • Other reports suggest maternity services are being cut by 40% year on year over the past 3 years
  • There is a significant increase in premature births:
    • Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth (and this number is rising). in the UK, around 80,000 babies are born prematurely each year needing specialist hospital care. This is 1 in 9 babies.
    • In babies born preterm, the chance of survival at less than 23 weeks is close to zero, while at 23 weeks it is 15%, at 24 weeks 55% and at 25 weeks about 80%.
    • Significant brain development happens during the last trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy so this is putting babies at increased risks of mental health issues.

 

  • There is a decline in the social care services to new mums
    • One in ten women felt that they did not get the support or consistent advice in the first 6 weeks after their birth according to an NCT (National Childbirth Trust) report
    • Inconsistent information given to new mums
    • 1 third of new mums according to an NCT report were not satisfied with the support or information they were given
  • There is a significant Increase in depression in new mums

 

  • There is also a significant increase in separation anxiety for babies of mums returning to work

 

  • Britain ranks 11th out of 18 countries reviewed for equality at work.
    • British working mothers are significantly worse off than those without family responsibilities
    • Gender pay gap: without children is 9%, with children is 21%
    • Financial inclusion is one of the keys to closing the gender gap, however, current policies are actively working against this
  • 3 out of 4 working mothers experience some type of discrimination in their professional life
  • ½ of working mothers say pregnancy and maternity leave had a negative impact on their career
  • Equality & Human Rights Commission reported up to 54,000 mums were forced out of their jobs in 2016.