Women are the hardest hit

On Sunday I spent a lovely morning at the annual Mothers’ Day celebrations at the Elim Pentecostal Church in Catford. With International Women’s Day having just passed, the impact of the Coalition’s agenda on women and mothers was at the forefront of my mind.

I am proud to be a member of a party which has a long and proud history of campaigning for and delivering real improvements to women’s lives. The last Government increased maternity leave from 18 weeks to a year, doubled maternity pay, introduced Child Tax Credits and the right for parents to request flexible working. Its legacy includes supporting the creation of over a million new childcare places and the opening of 3500 Sure Start Children’s Centres – an important policy which is being scaled back by this Government.

It is no secret that women are being disproportionately hit by this Government’s policies; they are more likely to be in low-paid, part-time, public sector work and to rely on state services. Analysis of the last Autumn Statement revealed that 81% of the key additional direct tax, tax credit and welfare reform changes will come from women. When added together with other changes the Government has already announced, this means women are being hit three times harder than men.

From April this year, the Government will restrict Statutory Maternity Pay to a 1% annual increase. By 2015, this real terms cut in maternity pay will effectively amount to a £180 ‘tax’ on working women (the so-called ‘mummy tax’ that has been reported recently in the press). Nationally, up to 1.2million people (including dads) will be hit by the 1% cap, with low-income mums being hit hardest as they are less likely to take their full maternity leave because they can’t afford to stay off work.

The sad thing is that mums are already amongst the hardest hit by the Coalition’s tax and benefit changes. On top of the real terms cuts to child benefit and tax credit changes faced by all parents – including child benefit and tax credit freezes and reductions in support for childcare – new mums have already faced the scrapping of the Health in Pregnancy Grant, the restriction of the Sure Start Maternity Grant and the scrapping of the baby addition to the Child Tax Credit.

David Cameron said his Government would be the most family-friendly ever, but the impact of his policies on women and mums says everything you need to know about his priorities.

I am backing Labour’s campaign to highlight the impact of the restrictions to Statutory Maternity Pay on mothers. Mums deserve better and I will continue to put pressure on the Government to change course.

You can pledge your support for the campaign here

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