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Extend maternity leave and benefit to mothers of premature babies – Funchion

5 April, 2017 - by Kathleen Funchion TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Childcare Kathleen Funchion TD has called for changes to statutory maternity leave and maternity benefit to better support mothers of premature babies.

Speaking this evening in the Dáil chamber, Deputy Funchion said that an extension of maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers of babies who are born prematurely would have an immediate positive impact on the lives of so many women and their children.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said:

“Sinn Féin fully support the calls for an extension of maternity leave to be added for the time a premature baby has had to spend in a neonatal unit receiving intensive medical attention. The time available for mother and child to spend at home afterwards once reunited is shortened as a result.

“Currently, mothers of premature babies not only have to battle with the emotional trauma of living through the precarious situation of their new born child, but  also the financial stress of either having to take extra unpaid leave in order to spend appropriate time with their child or leave work entirely if their employer decided not to grant additional leave. 

“Parents of premature babies often have huge difficulty in finding the ways and means to stay with their children in hospital after a birth due to a shortage of space or due to the high cost of accommodation needed in order to remain near them. The emotional impact of that cannot be overstated. 

“Other factors play a huge part in compounding this stress, such as complications with accommodation which many parents must cover themselves in order to remain near their baby while in treatment and parking costs at hospitals

“Accommodation should be provided by the government so parents can stay with their baby while they are in hospital supporting the wellbeing of premature babies. Parents are separated at this critical point when their child really needs the presence, touch, and nourishment from their mother the most

“Currently, there are absolutely no supports or allowances for parents of premature babies at State level. Organisations such as The Irish Premature Babies organisation do outstanding work on a voluntary basis for parents, fundraising to assist the costs parents often have to cover. This Government recommends that parents should play an active role in their children’s recovery process while in an intensive care unit. Why then are they offering no financial assistance to do that? 

“Recent statistics from the Central Statistics Office, that there are over 4,500 babies born prematurely every year, that is one in every 14 births 
“This represents a large number of parents who have a right to fair and compassionate treatment when considering their rights to maternity and paternity benefit. Their needs and the welfare of their premature babies must be prioritised.

“The extension of maternity leave for mothers with premature babies is a move that is already happening in New Zealand, Britain, and many other states. We should follow suit and implement this change immediately. Statutory maternity leave, and crucially pay, should be extended for mothers of premature babies, to give families the additional emotional and financial support they need.” 

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