§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people have claimed under the Sure Start Maternity Grant scheme; what steps his Department is taking to make sure that people eligible for this grant are aware of it; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Angela Eagle
Sure Start Maternity Grant was introduced on 27 March of this year for babies due or born on or after 11 June. The Maternity Payment scheme remains in operation for babies due or born on or before 10 June. Both schemes will continue to run concurrently during the transitional period. In the first full month of the new payment's operation (up to 30 April), there were an estimated 5,224 claims. During the same period there were 8,430 claims for Maternity Payments. The number of claims made for Sure Start Maternity Grant will inevitably be lower now than they will be when claims for Maternity Payments finally come to an end.
To raise awareness of the new grant a special leaflet and poster have been produced jointly by this Department and the Department of Health. These are being distributed to outlets likely to be used by lower income families with newly born babies. The leaflet is included in a free pack that expectant mothers can obtain from Mothercare. The leaflet and a poster are being distributed through a number of major retail and pharmaceutical chains. They are also available through doctors' surgeries, through advisory organisations, through key Employment Service offices offering ONE and departmental local offices.
The leaflet and poster are available in Welsh as well as in English and are available in Braille and cassette versions. Information on Sure Start Maternity Grant is also included in departmental leaflets "Expecting a Baby?" and "Babies and Children". These are available in English, Welsh and eight ethnic languages. To coincide with the launch of the new payment, articles were placed in women's magazines. Advice on the grant can also be accessed through the departmental website pages.319W
§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will extend maternity benefit to those lower-paid women who are excluded from receiving payment; how many people will be beneficiaries of this payment; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Bayley
More women will be able to qualify for Maternity Allowance (MA) under new rules which apply to women expecting babies on or after 20 August 2000. The improvements will extend MA to low-paid women who earn at least £30 a week on average, and who are employed or self-employed for 26 weeks in the 66 week period ending with the week before the week the baby is expected.
Around 11,000 employed women and 2,000 self-employed women will receive a maternity payment for the first time. The changes will also increase MA by 15 per cent. for around 11,000 self-employed women who, until now, received less MA than employed women.