News story legal challenge

12th March 2020 • Emma Cooper

A disappointing but unsurprising outcome following yesterday’s Budget 2020 concluded that there was no mention of social care.

Coronavirus played a large part in discussion and decisions, including a £5 billion COVID-19 response fund to ensure the NHS and other public services receive the funding they need to respond to the outbreak. As the situation develops it also allows them to recover and return to normal afterwards.

For individuals it includes extending Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for those advised to self-isolate, and those caring for others who self-isolate, and support through the welfare system for those who cannot claim SSP, as well as a hardship fund.

However, there was no mention of parent carers and what they can fall back on if they are taken ill and have to self-isolate but there is no-one else to look after their disabled children.

The main positives to come out of the Budget included big news for Changing Places toilets and parents having premature babies.

Changing Places

Changing Places Consortium and Changing Places toilet campaigners met with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Government officials back in 2018 and 2019 to discuss how the Government could help increase Changing Places toilet provision. This has led to a £30 million investment for Changing Places toilets being announced in yesterday’s Budget. The new Changing Places Fund will see the Government match fund the costs of installing Changing Places in existing buildings in England.

Talking about the importance of accessible toilets for everyone, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said, ‘Where people shop, go out, or travel should not be determined by their disability. Yet, currently the lack of the right facilities can prevent some people from enjoying the day-to-day activities many of us take for granted. I want to change that, which is why my Budget this week is about spreading opportunity, not only across different parts of the country, but also throughout our communities.’

Neonatal Leave

Yesterday’s Budget included a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement of around £160 per week for up to 12 weeks. The announcement means that:

  • Parents whose babies are in neonatal care for over a week will be entitled to statutory paid leave for every further week their baby is on the unit up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
  • It will be available to parents of all babies in neonatal care, whether they were born premature or at term.
  • The leave will be paid at a rate of around £160 per week.
  • This will be in addition to other parental leave, like maternity and paternity leave.
  • As with existing parental leave, the government will incur almost all of the cost, rather than businesses.

Bliss has been campaigning for an extension to statutory paid leave for parents whose babies are in neonatal care for a long period of time. In 2013, their survey of over 1,800 parents found that each week on a neonatal unit costs parents an average of £282. This is largely due to lost earnings, expensive hospital food, travel and accommodation costs.

Easing pressures

Last year, another survey conducted by Bliss found that 66% of dads had to return to work while their baby was still receiving specialist neonatal care and 36% of dads resorted to being signed off sick in order to spend time with their baby on the neonatal unit.

This new entitlement will therefore mean that fathers and partners will not have to take annual and unpaid leave in order to stay with their child in hospital and mothers will also see their maternity leave extended.

Justin Irwin, Chief Executive at Bliss commented, ‘After many years of campaigning, we are delighted to see the Government agree to enact neonatal leave and pay. The difference it will make to the parents of roughly 40,000 babies every year cannot be overstated. It will relieve the additional stress of having to juggle looking after a baby in hospital with work, ease some of the financial pressure and, by allowing parents to be more involved in their baby’s care, will improve the health outcomes of premature or sick babies.’

‘However, we are disappointed to hear that it will not come into force until April 2023. So Bliss will be keeping up the pressure on the Government to make it available as soon as possible.’