These parents need support

Large and soaring financial costs to new parents coping with the premature birth or sickness of their baby are straining household budgets and parents’ well-being.

This was the central message to MPs at a Commons event organised by the Bliss special care baby charity, which campaigns to protect the interests of parents facing this trying ordeal.

One in nine babies born in Tyneside is admitted to specialist hospital care each year. A credible Bliss survey of parents and hospitals reveals that such parents face extra costs on average of £2,256 during their baby’s stay in hospital or £282 per week. The costs include extra food and drinks and £100 per week in travel and parking.

These costs put huge strains on household budgets, with some parents not then being able to find their rent or mortgage as a result. Not surprisingly, the combined emotional and economic strain is exacerbating some parents’ mental well-being at a time when they need their wits about them.

These pressures affect very many people with about 78,000 births coming into this category each year. I wish that the NHS could offer help to finance everyone in this position but in the best of all worlds that would be difficult.

But I will be urging ministers to very carefully examine how they could do more to relieve the pressure on such parents. It could happen to any new parent and we should do more to minimise such unexpected and sometimes heavy financial burdens.