Steve Reed, the MP for Croydon North, today introduced a motion in the House of Commons to extend leave for all parents whose babies are born premature.
Bliss has been asking the Government to extend parental leave for the parents of premature or sick babies for a number of years. In 2014, our ‘Its not a game‘ campaign called for the leave of parents who babies are in hospital for two or more weeks to be extended by the amount of time their baby is in neonatal care.
Mother Catriona Ogilvy, whose first son was born 10 weeks premature, has also been campaigning on this issue. Catriona’s ‘The Smallest Things’ petition recently reached 100,000 signatures, which attracted a lot of media attention, and Catriona has appeared alongside Bliss spokespeople on TV.
What’s the problem?
As many Bliss supporters know, having a baby born premature or sick is a life-changing experience. Rather than being able to take their baby home shortly after birth, parents have to watch as their baby is admitted to a specialist hospital unit where they receive vital care to help them breathe, feed and grow.
Steve Reed MP has introduced a parental leave bill
Maternal leave starts when a baby is born. This means that the parents of babies born premature or sick can spend a lot of their, not at home caring for and bonding with their growing baby, but in hospital by a cot, worrying if their baby will survive.
A Bliss survey found that over 70 per cent of parents of babies born at 30 weeks or less thought current maternity leave was inadequate, and nearly 70 per cent of fathers had to return to work while their baby was still on the neonatal unit.
The mothers of babies born very prematurely have even spoken of feeling ‘robbed’ of time with them.
Counting the cost
Families whose baby is born premature or sick face a financial penalty as well as problems with leave. A Bliss study found that every week that a baby is in neonatal care costs the family an extra £282 on top of the usual costs of having a baby. This is a result of various factors, including the cost of travel, parking, and accommodation.
The second reading of Steve Reed’s Maternity and Paternity (Premature Birth) Bill is expected to take place on Friday 16th December, when MPs will have a chance to debate the issue.
Mr Reed commented, “There is quite considerable cross party support for this, so there’s real momentum behind this issue.”