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Over 468,000 mums-to-be get cash boost in first six months

Over 468,000 mums-to-be have benefited from the new Health in Pregnancy Grant – worth £190 – since it was launched in April 2009.

The Heath in Pregnancy Grant is a one-off payment intended to help pregnant mums stay fit and healthy in the run up to the birth and meet some of the costs as the big day approaches.

The money can be claimed from the 25th week of pregnancy, after receiving health advice from a midwife or other health professional. Expectant mums will be given a claim form to sign and send off, which they must do within 31 days. When the claim is approved, the money is paid directly into a bank or building society account.


1. The Health in Pregnancy Grant is available to expectant mothers ordinarily resident in the UK and is subject to immigration status.
2. The grant is a universal, one-off payment available to expectant mothers in the UK from the 25th week of pregnancy and was payable from 6 April 2009. Payment of the grant does not depend on household income.
3. The grant will not affect payments of other benefits and tax credits and is payable for each pregnancy, not each baby.


October 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

Completion of reform to the healthcare regulatory bodies

The completion of a series of reforms, to strengthen the focus on public protection in the regulation of health professionals including nurses, midwives and dentists, was announced by the Department of Health today.

These reforms mark a significant milestone in the Government’s programme to make safety and quality paramount in the care of patients by modernising the regulation of healthcare professionals, as set out in the White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety.

The key features of the reforms are:

– Each regulator has moved to a fully appointed council, with parity between lay and professional members, to ensure that professional interests do not dominate;

– New council members for the regulators will be independently appointed by the Appointments Commission against specific criteria relating to their skills and expertise;

– Smaller, more board-like councils will enhance the ability of the regulators to act strategically.

October 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

The Downs Syndrome Association launches an all party parliamentary group

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Down’s syndrome has been launched to inform MPs and Lords about many of the issues facing people with Down’s syndrome and their families, and ways in which policy changes can improve their quality of life.

One of the DSA’s parent members, Tony Greaves, worked with his local MP and with the DSA to seek the support of 25 other MPs to create a new Parliamentary Group, some of whom met for the first time at the end of June. Down Syndrome Education International (DownsEd) is also supporting the Group.

At the inaugural meeting, we heard about MP interest in Down’s syndrome, about the work of our organisation and that of DownsEd. We also heard from Professor John Hardy, a researcher in genetic and neuro-science from UCL who believes that there is so much to learn about Down’s syndrome and much that could be gained from pursuing a research programme that focuses specifically on various aspects of Down’s syndrome.

The APPG has already agreed to support our Tell it Right ( campaign to ensure that high quality support is given to parents after a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. The Group will seek to improve, through legislation, the quality of information provided to parents throughout the prenatal screening process, and to those with a post-natal diagnosis.

As well as establishing current public funding for research (medical, social and educational) the Group have also agreed to work to establish two National Working Groups, the first to develop a multi-disciplinary, co-ordinated research strategy for Down’s syndrome, and the second on Best Practice Standards in health and medical care, early development, education (including adults), adult social care and employment support.

The DSA is very pleased by the expressions of support from all the political parties and from members of the Lords. The Group will meet again in the autumn – we will keep you posted!

September 11, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Queen’s speech outlines the legislative programme for 1008/09 – including greater equality and welfare reform

A draft outline of the Bills involved was announced earlier this year, but due to the economic downturn some Bills were dropped and other’s scaled back. 

Equality Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to: make Britain a fairer place where people have the opportunity to succeed whatever their race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Fairness  and an absence of discrimination are the hallmarks of a modern decent society, with a strong economy, which draws on the talents of all.

Community Empowerment, Housing and Economic Regeneration Bill


 The purpose of the Bill is to: create greater opportunities for community and individual empowerment, reform local and regional governance arrangements to promote economic regeneration and continue the Government’s programme of housing reform.

The Bill will include legislation to empower communities and individuals by involving them in the design and delivery of local public services. 

National Health Service Reform Bill

The main purpose of the Bill is to: take forward those proposals arising from Lord Darzi’s ‘NHS Next Stage Review’ of the NHS in England that would require legislation to enable their implementation.

The Bill, say the NHS, must pay regard to the NHS Constitution which will be published in January and gives legal right to patient choice in healthcare, along with a series of rights such to be treated with dignity and respect, be treated in clean environment, the right to be prescribed NICE approved drugs. It could include:

• Publication of an NHS Constitution;

• Enabling and encouraging Primary Care Trusts to be more responsive to their local communities;  

• Giving greater scope for patients to shape the care they receive.


 The main benefits of the Bill could include:


• Strengthening public involvement in Primary Care Trusts’ commissioning arrangements;

• Allowing the possibility for those patients, who wish to do so, to have  greater control over the management of their care.  

Saving Gateway Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to: provide a financial incentive to saving among the poorest in society.

This could be aimed at working towards ending child poverty with the Government offering a national cash saving scheme for those on lower incomes, providing a financial incentive to save through matching (a government contribution for every pound saved).  The scheme will be open to individuals in receipt of qualifying benefits and tax credits namely: Working Tax Credits; Child Tax Credits paid at the maximum rate; Income Support; Jobseeker’s Allowance; Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance; and Severe Disablement Allowance – around 8 million individuals in the UK.

It will open in 2010, with the first matched payments paid out to savers from 2012 and in pilots carried out between 2001 and 2007, over 22,000 people took part, achieving over £15 million in savings.

The scheme aims to kick-start a saving habit among people on lower incomes, enabling them to plan for the future and cope with financial pressure, and to promote financial inclusion by encouraging people to engage with financial institutions such as banks, building societies and credit unions.

Welfare Reform Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to: further reform the welfare and benefit systems to improve support and incentives for people to move from benefits into work, to provide greater choice and control for disabled people. The Government remains committed to make progress towards the target on child poverty. The bill will be preceded by a green paper and full consultation which will look at options to modernise the benefit system, delivering value for money for the taxpayer while providing support for people at the time they need it most. The changes will also focus on promotion of personal responsibility and independence, making clearer the relationship between the support people can receive and the expectations of them to participate fully in society.

This will work towards ending child poverty with measures to better enable people to take advantage of help on offer to them and where appropriate, to undertake training that is considered essential to finding employment.  It includes:

• A range of measures which strengthen the benefit contract between the individual and society – the individual’s right to support in exchange for clear personal responsibility for improving their own circumstances.

• A number of measures to strengthen the requirements of non-resident parents to contribute to their children’s upbringing, as part of a package which champions personal responsibility in the welfare system. 

• Measures to modernise and simplify the benefit system, ensuring that support provides help at the time and in the manner most needed.

The Bill aims to strengthen parental responsibility; give disabled people greater choice and control; reduce welfare dependency; and increase personal responsibility within the welfare system.

December 5, 2008 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Latest infant mortality figures show decrease in number of deaths

The Department of Health has published the latest figures relating to infant mortality which shows an overall decrease in the number of infant deaths in England and Wales. The statistics reveal that during 2005-07, there were 9,846 infant deaths, giving an overall rate of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This represents a decrease from the 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births during 2004-06.

The infant mortality rate among the Routine and Manual (R&M) group, those with ‘lower supervisory and technical occupations’, ‘semi-routine’ and routine’ occupations, was 16% higher than in the total population in 2005-07; this compares with 13% higher in the baseline period of 1997-99, so the gap had widened since the baseline. However, the gap has narrowed in recent years – the rate among the R&M group was 19% higher than in the total population in 2002-04, 18% higher in 2003-05, 17% higher in 2004-06, and 16% higher


This target was set in the Department of Health Public Service Agreement (PSA) published as part of the Government Spending Review 2004.


The target to reduce health inequalities by 10% by 2010 as measured by infant mortality and life expectancy at birth is still a challenging one, but if the gap continues to narrow at the rate observed since 2002-04, the Infant Mortality inequality target will be met.More detail can be found in the bulletin available at the link below.

December 5, 2008 at 10:52 am 1 comment

Secretary of State re-emphasises breastfeeding in the war against obesity

Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health gave evidence this week, to the Health Committee on its inquiry into health inequalities.


Independent MP Richard Taylor asked what specific measures addressed health inequalities. Mr Johnson identified encouraging breast feeding along with smoking cessation and reducing cholesterol and blood pressure levels as key. He noted that the Government had announced £34 million for these programmes in spearhead areas with a further £13 million for ‘health ghettos’ – the areas of greatest deprivation within these. 


On the best ways of tackling obesity, Mr Johnson highlighted the ‘Change for Life’ programme, which is aimed at helping every family in England eat well, and steps to encourage breastfeeding. On the latter, he explained that there was a huge campaign on-going to encourage it through health visitors and schools.


When Charlotte Atkins raised concerns that a move from Sure Start to children’s centres would dilute health messages, Mr Johnson replied that the fact that children’s centres would be in more affluent areas would not divert from the focus on healthcare in more deprived areas. There was no evidence that children’s centres would be in Ms Atkins’ words ‘colonised’ by the middle classes, the Health Secretary maintained. The Government would continue to push for improvements in health across the board rather than focusing on the most deprived.


Ms Atkins also expressed concerns over a decline in health visitor numbers. More health visitors were needed, Mr Johnson admitted, but pointed out that this was partially compensated by a 37 per cent rise in the number of community nurses. There were now more people working at community level, he said and, given sufficient training, nurses could provide similar services to health visitors.


Commenting on the evidence, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said the only way to tackle health inequalities was by tackling poverty and the education divide.  He called for a reduction in poverty by cutting taxes for those on low and middle incomes.  He also noted a need to focus extra money on disadvantaged schoolchildren to raise their prospects and aspirations.

November 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm 1 comment

Support for women and children’s hospital with launch of ‘Time to Deliver’ campaign

SDLP West Belfast Assembly Member Alex Attwood and Councillor Tim Attwood joined the hundreds of parents and children at Stormont campaigning for the new regional women’s and children’s hospital at the Royal Victoria Hospital.  The ‘Time to Deliver’ campaign was launched by the Royal Maternity Liaison Committee at Stormont on Wednesday 19th November.

Tim Attwood said “14 year ago, parents, staff and women’s groups started a campaign to build the new women’s and children’s hospital. After 7 consultation and 6 Ministers for Health, it is time for the Minister for Health and the NI Executive to deliver the resources needed to clear the site and build the new maternity hospital.”

November 21, 2008 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

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