Mercy Muroki: Mother's Day is now just virtue signalling because the state doesn't value mums
Maternity care is a postcode lottery. Employment rights for Mums dire. Maternity allowance, a pittance for many. And that’s before you get to childcare
Yesterday, we celebrated Mothering Sunday – a tradition dating back to the 16th century. The day gives us a nice excuse to splurge a bit of cash on a nice roast dinner at the pub, like I did yesterday with my Mum and my daughter.
But, just as I think International Women’s Day, Black History Month, and the rest are mostly just virtue signalling, I think Mother’s Day is too. Because do I think our system, our state actually values mothers? No, I don’t.
Yes, we celebrated mothers yesterday but in just a few days, an inquiry into the biggest maternity scandal in British history is expected to be published.
The five-year landmark review into the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust will conclude that 300 babies died… avoidably, or suffered brain damage over several years because of an unsafe culture and a lack of listening to mothers’ concerns.
But whilst unprecedented at that scale, failures in maternity care are not uncommon. Just at the end of last year, one of England’s largest maternity hospitals had their rating downgraded to ‘inadequate’ over safety fears.
This came just weeks after the NHS watchdog published damning findings of persistent weaknesses in maternity care.
And this is a UK wide problem. In fact, just a few days ago, the Scottish Government Health Minister Humza Yousaf was forced to make an intervention after it emerged that mothers across the highlands had been experiencing a series of maternity failures.
Now, if I were to put these issues to a government minister, what they would tell me is that NHS England has just announced a few days ago a £127 million funding boost for maternity services across England. To which I would say – well, great - but that’s equivalent to £217 for every baby born in England. How far will that really stretch in an organisation that, when it comes to swallowing cash has the suction power of a top-of-the-range Dyson.
It is not only budding or expectant mothers who should care about this. We all should. Why? Well, I won’t state the obvious that we all came from mothers (or 'birthing people with cervixes' as some of the unhinged among us would say).
But the reality is, the overwhelming majority of us WILL, whether we like it or not, come face to face with the issue of maternity provisions at one point in our lives – whether that’s because we become mothers ourselves, or our partners do, or loved ones. And it simply isn’t good enough.
Maternity care is a postcode lottery. Employment rights for Mums dire. Maternity allowance, a pittance for many. And that’s before you get to childcare…
Marking Mothering Sunday, yesterday, Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, said that too many employers are breaking maternity employment law. Braverman became last year, the first ever cabinet minister to take maternity leave - BUT a law had to be rushed through parliament so that she could actually go on maternity leave without having to leave her job. If that isn't a damning indictment of how little forethought is given to maternity, I don't know what is.
Look, the job of mothering is one of the most challenging things women face. And making it as easy and smooth as possible makes it easier and smoother for dads, and in turn – creates happier, healthier families. Until we get it right for Mums, who are the backbone of… well, literal civilisation itself… in Britain, one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, then we have no hope of getting it right for anyone.