Victory for surrogate parents and Dearne MP

MP John Healey with Jane Kassim, Amy Bellamy and babies Ivy and Isla.
MP John Healey with Jane Kassim, Amy Bellamy and babies Ivy and Isla.

Parents who have children through surrogacy will finally be entitled to full leave and pay next year, after the Children and Families Act gained royal assent.

The news comes after much work by Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey and cousins Jane Kassim, from Clifton, and Amy Bellamy, from Rawmarsh, who first approached him at an advice surgery in January, 2012.

Amy was carrying twin girls for Jane and husband Adis but Jane, a teaching assistant, found she was unable to claim maternity leave or pay. Jane and Adis were only entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid parental leave, even though they would be caring for the babies straight after the birth.

Jane, whose daughters Ivy and Isla have just turned two, managed to reach an agreement with her employer. But her own experience spurred her to help fight for better statutory rights for other women in her situation.

Mr Healey said: “This campaign began in Rotherham and I am delighted that the work we did here and in London and the strong arguments we put together convinced the Government to change the law.

“Jane knew it would be too late for her to benefit but she and Amy should be extremely proud that by highlighting this unfairness they have helped dozens of future families across the country in similar situations.

“This is a victory for Jane, mums like her and it is a victory for common sense and common justice.”

Many people had tried before to get this change without success.

Mr Healey brought a Ten Minute Rule Bill in April 2012 and followed it up with behind-the-scenes meetings with ministers, officials and other campaigners.

In November 2012 the Government announced plans to give parents having babies through surrogacy the same rights as those having their own or adopting.

In September 2013 Mr Healey co-hosted a celebratory reception in Westminster with specialist law firm Natalie Gamble associates. It was attended by the women and equalities minister Jo Swinson, who supported the campaign, representatives from voluntary organisations and parents and children born through surrogacy.

The Children and Families Act means intended parents in surrogacy cases who qualify for a Parental Order will become eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay from April 2015, and time off for antenatal appointments from October this year

Mr Healey was named constituency campaigner of the year at the Dods Parliamentary Awards in January, for his work on securing these rights for parents and for fighting against expensive 0845 telephone numbers.