Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has called for Northern Ireland to implement an improved pregnancy grant similar to the Pregnancy and Baby Payment recently announced in Scotland.
The package, which has replaced the Sure Start Grant, helps low income families cover some of the costs associated with having a child. Comprised of three payments during pregnancy and two additional early learning payments thereafter, the grant will be open for applications by Summer 2019.
Mr Durkan said: “Welcoming a new child into the world, whilst a joyful journey for many, can also be one of the most costly times in people’s lives. I believe that adopting a scheme similar to Scotland’s recent ‘Pregnancy and Baby Payment’ is the best way to support low-income families and alleviate some of the financial burden during this time.
“Whether that helps towards a pram or clothes for your baby, because it is a cash payment, each claimant can choose how they spend their money.
“Whilst we do have the Sure Start Grant here, it does not go far enough. Eligible applicants are limited to first born or for those whose youngest child is 16 or over.
“The replacement provisions made in Scotland are open to parents or carers from the 24th week of pregnancy up until the child is six months. Furthermore, an additional two payments for early learning costs could prove crucial in the key early stages of a child’s life.”
“In the current climate, every little helps. By providing people with financial help during this critical period we can give kids the best possible start in life.
"This is an example of how government should work, meeting the needs of local people who have elected them in the first place. Here in the North we don't have a government full stop, it is evident their vested interests lay not with the people but elsewhere."
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