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Thousands of new mothers ‘are left penniless’ due to a backlog of maternity allowance claims

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Thousands of new mothers ‘are left penniless’ due to a backlog of maternity allowance claims

  • Crisis triggered by a staffing shortage at the Department for Work and Pensions
  • The £148-per-week allowance is paid to nearly 60,000 mothers every year
  • Severe backlog at the DWP means applications are being delayed by 14 weeks 

Thousands of new and expecting mothers have been left without an income due to a backlog in maternity allowance claims.

Pregnant women are facing the prospect of having to care for their child without any money coming in and falling into debt. 

The crisis has been triggered by a staffing shortage at the Department for Work and Pensions – responsible for processing maternity allowance claims.

Thousands of new and expecting mothers have been left without an income due to a backlog in maternity allowance claims (file image) 

The £148-per-week allowance is paid to nearly 60,000 mothers every year who are not eligible for workplace or statutory maternity pay. 

Many are on temporary contracts, agency workers or have recently changed jobs. Around a third run their own businesses or are self-employed.

Women can make claims from 15 weeks before their due date. They are entitled to payments for up to 39 weeks from 11 weeks before their baby is due, or later if they choose to work for longer.

But a severe backlog at the DWP means applications are being delayed by around 14 weeks and many mothers are going into labour without knowing when their payments will start.

The £148-per-week allowance is paid to nearly 60,000 mothers every year who are not eligible for workplace or statutory maternity pay (file image)

The £148-per-week allowance is paid to nearly 60,000 mothers every year who are not eligible for workplace or statutory maternity pay (file image) 

Self-employed fashion designer Amelia Friend, 28, has been forced to borrow money from her family since she stopped work at 39 weeks pregnant. 

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The first-time mother, from London, submitted her maternity allowance claim when she was eight months pregnant.

But last week she discovered she is unlikely to receive any payments before the end of November. 

She said: ‘I’m getting into debt waiting for the payments. It’s a very upsetting experience at such a vulnerable time.’

Charity Maternity Action has seen a spike in calls to its helpline from women who applied for their allowance in July and August but have still not received anything.

 DWP is now taking urgent action to recruit staff but was unable to give any time-frame for when the problems might be solved.

A DWP spokesman said: ‘We understand how important this financial support is for new parents and are sorry for the delays some are currently experiencing. 

‘We are putting more staff in place to speed up the process and are fast-tracking emergency cases.’

The DWP is urging women to apply as soon as they are eligible to minimise delays.

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