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Maternity Benefits

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) which European countries reward mothers either in cash or kind for attending ante-natal clinics; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will introduce a scheme of benefits for women attending ante-natal clinics, as suggested in the letter sent to him by the hon. Member for Eccles.

France and Finland have schemes for benefits linked to attendance at ante-natal or post-natal clinics. We understand that Austria and Hungary also have such a scheme. There seems to be no firm evidence that the disincentive in loss of benefit for non-attendance weighs more heavily with women than the advantages of proper medical care. In this country we have seen greater advantage in attempting to improve the attendance rate at clinics by identifying practices which encourage high take-up of preventive services and in improving ways in which services might be taken to non-attenders. In the United Kingdom, removing contributory benefit rights from those who failed to attend a clinic would impose a double penalty on some of the most vulnerable mothers. Because our scheme is contributory and not universal, there would in any case be a substantial number of non-beneficiaries for whom the "fine" would be ineffective. My Department attaches greater importance to the continuing improvement of ante-natal and obstetric care for all expectant mothers, and will shortly publish, in association with the other United Kingdom Health Departments, a paper on safer pregnancy and childbirth designed to stimulate wide discussion.