Catherine as Chair of the House of Commons Petitions Committee led a debate in parliament highlighting the impact of the cost of living crisis on new parents.
The debate comes after a petition calling on the Government to raise statutory maternity pay in line with the cost of living.
Opening the debate, Catherine said: “the gift of parenthood is being eclipsed for many by the mire of spreadsheets, cost cutting, and damaging health effects as the cost of living has shot up over the last year or so.”
The Newcastle North MP outlined how the cost of living crisis was hitting new parents especially hard, pointing to “outsized food inflation” and the startling rise in price of parenting essentials: “Since March 2021, the cost of formula milk has risen by 24%, with the cheapest ‘own-brand’ option increasing by 45%. Last year, in the 12 weeks to 19 August, the price of Pampers rocketed up to 60%.”
Before the debate, Catherine met with mums in Newcastle with Children North East to hear about their experiences of being new mothers. Catherine passed on what the mums told her, saying that “stress was a recurrent theme, as mothers described the anxiety that this rampant inflation is causing them, and its making budgeting almost impossible,” before talking about the dangerous consequences of this stress: “from the moment of conception, poor maternal mental health has an impact on babies, leading to worse outcomes across health, educational attainment, and happiness later in life. The stakes are incredibly high, and we are storing up problems for the future.”
Catherine went on to highlight how the pressure has been heaped on mothers as a result of many fathers feeling unable to take extended paternity leave:
“One mother said that “as a Mum, when you’re left on your own after 2 weeks it is terrifying’.
Frightened and alone, new mothers are being let down.”
Closing her speech, Catherine urged the government to take action: “one thing is absolutely clear from the plethora of evidence I have taken ahead of this debate today: doing nothing is not an option.”
Commenting after the debate, Catherine said:
“Support for new parents, especially mothers, desperately needs to be improved. The cost of living crisis is putting parents in an impossible position, caught between the need to work and the desire to spend time with their children.
“Failure to act only kicks the can down the road, setting us up for an even bigger crisis in the future as maternal mental health suffers, inequality deepens, and children’s chances in life are permanently damaged.”
You can view the full Petition Committee debate online at – https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/66c31e5a-f246-49c4-a301-c2954fa785f0