Editorial

Neonatal support plans fail the most vulnerable

Parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short
Picture shows a father holding a baby in a neonatal unit. This editorial says parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short.

Parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short

Somewhat lost in the frenzy that is Brexit was an opportunity to participate in a government consultation on extending leave entitlement for parents of infants admitted to neonatal units.

Perhaps money, work and leave are not the first thoughts of parents worried about their premature or sick infant, but the unexpected costs of admission will quickly affect these families.

The charity Bliss puts the additional costs to parents at 282 per week and has campaigned for support.

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Parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short

Picture shows a father holding a baby in a neonatal unit. This editorial says parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short.
Picture: Alamy

Somewhat lost in the frenzy that is Brexit was an opportunity to participate in a government consultation on extending leave entitlement for parents of infants admitted to neonatal units.

Perhaps money, work and leave are not the first thoughts of parents worried about their premature or sick infant, but the unexpected costs of admission will quickly affect these families.

The charity Bliss puts the additional costs to parents at £282 per week and has campaigned for support.

The proposals, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, are hardly jaw-droppingly generous. The recommendations are that in addition to statutory leave, parents would be entitled to paid leave of one week for each week of neonatal admission.

This would not be automatic – the child’s stay would have to be at least two weeks to trigger the entitlement, and the proposal includes a cap of 12 weeks of additional pay.

The consultation on neonatal leave has now closed, so we need to wait and see what happens in what is a bureaucratic and complex area.

First, there are qualifying periods related to length of employment, and the number of National Insurance contributions made. It is also clear that not all workers are equal.

Agency, casual and short-contract workers and those on zero-hours contracts do not automatically qualify for statutory maternity benefits, so the qualifying criteria for this benefit will limit the number of families able to claim this award.

Most worrying is the sad fact that the most vulnerable will not be supported by these proposals – jobseekers, mothers trapped in the asylum system and incapacitated parents will not be included.

While any help and benefit given to the families of neonates is welcome it seems grotesque that the families most in need are excluded.


Picture of Doreen Crawford, who is nurse adviser with Crawford McKenzie and consultant editor of Nursing Children and Young People. She says parents need more support when infants go into neonatal care, but proposals in the latest consultation fall short.Doreen Crawford is nurse adviser with Crawford McKenzie and consultant editor of Nursing Children and Young People

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