New and expectant mothers given free legal and financial advice in ground-breaking trial

Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker heard from Kerry Roberts, a mother who might have benefitted from support when she was fired while pregnant

As the cost of living continues to rise, new and expectant mothers in Cheshire and Merseyside are being offered free legal and financial support.

Research shows high levels of deprivation, stress and anxiety can increase the chances of premature birth and complications. In the first trial of its kind at the Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital, mothers will have direct access to an employment lawyer who can give them advice on everything from access to benefits, maternity pay and how to deal with unfair or unsafe working conditions.

It’s just the kind of service that would have made a real difference to women like Kerry Roberts.

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The 24-year-old from Wallasey, on the Wirral, had been working for a hospitality company for two years when she told them she was pregnant. Just days later, she was fired without any warning.

"I went from a steady income, to no income at all. I had to apply for universal credit. It was devastating. It’s affected my mental health, I got post-natal depression. It just all happened so quickly and really had an impact on my pregnancy," she said.

Ms Roberts said she "put her heart and soul into her job" and was left "not knowing where to turn to for help" when she suddenly found herself unemployed in the early stages of pregnancy.

'Devastating': Kerry explains how being fired impacted her mental health

Midwives on the Wirral will now be working with national charity Maternity Action, who will staff the specialist helpline with their in-house employment lawyers, who have expert knowledge of maternity rights at work. The dedicated Wirral service can be reached on 0808 802 0062 and will be open Monday to Friday 10am to 1pm. The charity's director Ros Bragg said: "Thousands of pregnant women face difficulties with maternity pay and benefits and unfair treatment at work, and don’t know where to turn to for help.

“The service will provide practical support to women and families to access financial support and job security.” The project is being funded by Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s Health and Maternity Programme.

Inflation is already at a 40-year high and is expected to hit 10% later this year. Maternity rights campaigners warn that the financial situation is already stark for thousands of women, as maternity pay fails to keep pace with inflation. The current basic rate is £156.66 per week.