HC Deb 06 February 1990 vol 166 cc576-7W
Mr. Meacher

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list all the changes in social security law since May 1979 which have affected the entitlement of women to maternity payments, giving his estimate of the numbers affected by each measure and the savings, net of tax and benefits as appropriate, or cost of each measure.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

The initial changes to extend eligibility for help with the costs of maternity were as follows:

November 1980—introduction of single payments for maternity needs

through the supplementary benefit scheme

12 months ending Amount paid £ million Number of payments made
December 1981 2.6 61,000
December 1982 5.4 101,000
December 1983 8.5 142,000
December 1984 12.8 188,000
February 1986 16.9 188,000
May 1987 18.3 176,000

Source: Annual Statistical Inquiries.


The data relate to all payments made during the 12 months prior to the inquiry. However, they exclude payments made to claimants who ceased to receive supplementary benefit prior to the date of the inquiry. Therefore the figures quoted may be an undercount of the actual payments made.July 1982—abolition of contribution conditions for £25 maternity grant.Additional beneficiaries: 60,000.Additional cost: £1.5 million per year.The £25 maternity grant had not been increased since 1969. Most families could accommodate the cost of having a baby within their own resources, but for those who did need help £25 was clearly inadequate. The measures introduced in 1987 increased the grant by more than three times to £85 for people on low income.April 1987—abolition of single payments for maternity needs and maternity grant. Replacement by social fund maternity payment of £85.Women not entitled to maternity grant: 700,000.Savings: £17.7 million.

Awards of social fund maternity payments
Year Amount paid (£ million) Number of awards
1987–88 15.5 193,000
1988–89 13.9 162,000
April 1989–December 1989 10.9 126,700

There was no doubt that the maternity allowance no longer met its objective. The purpose of the allowance has always been to help pregnant working women to give up work in good time before the baby is due in the interest of their own and their baby's health. But the old contribution test meant that many women who had given up work before they became pregnant could still receive the allowance, whereas other women who had worked continuously over the previous 12 months failed to qualify. The new arrangements better targeted payments more directly on women with a recent employment record.

April 1987—introduction of statutory maternity pay (SMP).Beneficiaries: 250,000 per year.Amounts of SMP paid: 1987–88—£193 million. 1988–89—£250 million. April 1987—introduction of revised contribution conditions for maternity allowance (MA).Beneficiaries: 45,000 per year.Amounts of MA paid: 1987–88—£51 million. 1988–89—£27 million. It is estimated that the combined effect of the SMP and MA changes was a PSBR saving of £13 million in 1987–88. About 94,000 women with no recent attachment to the employment field no longer qualified for MA; some 20,000 women qualified for MA or SMP for the first time.

The rates of maternity benefits are subject to review each year. It is proposed for example that from April 1990 maternity allowance will increase from £33.20 to £35.70 per week and that the lower rate of SMP will be uprated in excess of the increase required to keep pace with the movement in prices from £36.25 to £39.25 per week. The social fund maternity payment will also be increased from £85 to £100.

Forward to