What will you do to make it possible for families to survive on one income, if, for example, the mother is too unwell to work?
There is a range of support available for people on low incomes, and depending on her individual circumstances it may be that the mother would be eligible for some sickness benefits.
Lib Dems know the critical value of ensuring the welfare system is a safety net that is always there to support us when we fall on hard times. That’s why we have been clear that we will never support Tory plans to cut the welfare budget by £12 billion – plans that can only hurt those who are most in need of support. We also want to make sure that mental health support is always there for those who need it – including support to return to work for those who want to – which is why we have pledged an additional £3.5 billion to improve mental health support.
We would start by placing further duties on employers to increase paid parental leave for both parents for the first year of the child’s birth. This gives parents time and space to adjust and takes stress and pressure off parents. In the first instance the mother with a diagnosis of post-natal depression must be supported to make the right decision for her as to whether or not she should return to work. If the mother with a diagnosis of post-natal depression chooses to return to work a duty should be placed on all employers to make reasonable adjustments to limit the stress on her and to ensure that her workplace environment aids her recovery and that returning to work is a positive experience for her. Research evidence shows that work or meaningful activity has a positive impact on people recovering from mental illness and that being out of work for long periods of time can be detrimental to recovery.
If the mother with post-natal depression doesn’t wish to return to work or she is deemed too ill to work she must be entitled to benefits in her own right to enable her to support herself and her child to live with dignity and these should not be means tested or linked to her partners earnings. She should automatically qualify for the full PIP payment alongside ESA and housing and council tax benefit, and an increased rate of child benefit. She can also be entitled to receive additional therapeutic services via the personalisation route. She should have her needs assessed by a qualified social worker and if necessary get a package of care put into her home to help her with washing, cleaning her home, shopping and meal preparation so that she and her baby do not suffer neglect during the acute phase of her depression.
One of our pledges is to ensure a Living Wage for all by 2020, allowing everybody to earn enough money to live. We would ban zero hours contracts, putting an end to job insecurity. We would also conduct a review of the cruel benefit sanctions imposed by the current UK government, putting in place a humane and just social security system which supports those in need rather than punishing them.