119.Many people have benefited from the Government’s support schemes to help them through the pandemic, in what is the largest economic intervention in our country’s history. But the evidence we’ve received has shown that many new parents still face a very difficult situation. The Government has said that it feels the current entitlement is sufficiently generous and does not see any reason to extend it. The reality is that the current system of support for new parents has problems which are causing hardship in some cases. We have identified a number of areas where we believe there is a case for reform.
120.We have heard compelling evidence of the importance of supporting new parents and the positive impact this can have on the future generation. To avoid a future crisis, investment in new parents, particularly those who became parents during the pandemic will be vital. We strongly urge the Government to follow the science and stay alert to how the Government supports new parents so that the effects of the pandemic, do not continue to impact families for years to come.
121.The Government should extend parental leave and pay for all new parents affected by the pandemic. This includes maternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave. If it will not do so, then it must look at new ways—such as the introduction of a hardship grant—for those who are forced to take unpaid leave to care for children, particularly heavily affected groups including parents of premature and sick babies; adoptive parents; single parents; and those who have been identified as suffering from mental health problems as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
122.The Government is announcing changes to the lockdown and the support schemes almost every day. Each day that new parents wait for further support from the Government is a day of anxiety. While the Government normally responds to Select Committee reports within two months of publication, new parents cannot wait this long for the help they so urgently need. We urge the Government to respond as quickly as possible to the recommendations in this report and respond in full before the House of Commons rises for the summer.
Published: 6 July 2020