Foyle SDLP MLA, Mark H. Durkan, has called for an improved pregnancy grant here 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 of having a child. Comprising three payments during pregnancy and two additional early learning payments thereafter, the grant will be open for applications by Summer 2019.
Mr. Durkan commented: “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 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.”
Mr. Durkan said the Sure Start Grant here “does not go far enough”, with eligibility limited to first born or 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 financial help during this critical period we can give kids the best possible start in life.”