Whoever was it that decided it was a good idea to allow sales reps onto maternity wards?
Since I first realised that commercial parenting clubs like Bounty were allowed free access to brand new mums on wards, I’ve been certain how I feel about it; Maternity wards are a place for family and friends, for new parents to be with each other, for resting and preparing (as much as one can) for the new experiences ahead. They are not a place for sales reps peddling their wares and extracting personal information to sell on to others.
Yet in maternity wards across the country Bounty sales reps abound and an alarming number of new parents are reporting feeling harassed and pestered by them. Even worse some are reporting being misled, lied to and disrespected at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Why is this being allowed in our NHS? And why is Bounty being paid by HMRC to distribute Child Benefit forms as they travel the wards?
In 2011 – 2012 HMRC paid Bounty £90,000 to distribute Child Benefit claim forms within the packs that they hand out to new parents on wards. Bounty has become the only paid vehicle for distribution of these important forms. Why? Why not give the forms out when a birth is registered – a sure fire way to reach 100% of new parents without the involvement of a commercial enterprise and the blurred boundaries that this seems to have created.
Child Benefit forms and Bounty’s role in distributing them has become a hot topic over the past few months of this campaign, as it has emerged that some Bounty reps have been misleading parents about the need to hand over their personal information to the rep, before they can have the form. This abuse of the situation Bounty has found itself in, as the main distributor of the form (by a very long shot) needs to stop.
Over 25,000 have signed the petition calling on Health Minister Dan Poulter MP to ban commercial parenting clubs like Bounty from maternity wards. We now need to shift our focus to HMRC. The distribution of Child Benefit forms should not be done through a commercial enterprise, there are more suitable routes for distribution. And by removing the Child Benefit form from Bounty packs, any false sense of legitimacy that has been given to Bounty by handing out this important form will be removed.
I hope you will sign and share this petition addressed to Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke MP.
Their message is blatantly clear. Irrespective of whether they’ve had a ‘Bounty experience’ or not maternity wards are not considered, under any circumstance to be the place for commercial reps. The hours after birth are not the time for parents to be sold photographs or asked for personal details by someone who is there to make money from them. Bounty should not be on wards.
Within the picture of Bounty that has been emerging out of the experiences of new parents, there are a number of common themes. One such theme is the experience of new parents being told by reps that they cannot obtain their Child Benefit form without first handing over their personal details. This is of course untrue.
This mothers experience is typical:
“After the birth of my second child, the Bounty rep came into my room outside visiting hours (my mother had been refused admission for this reason) and asked me for my details. When I asked her why she seemed very surprised and told me it was “for your child benefit” – which I understand is simply untrue. She did not at the time identify herself – I had initially assumed that she was a member of the clinical team who were caring for my (unwell) newborn. I was in a very vulnerable state at the time, having had virtually no sleep over the previous 2 nights”
This is not just an issue being reported by parents. Midwives are reporting it too:
“I have witnessed mothers on a postnatal ward being informed that they had to give their personal details in order to access child benefit”.
That any parent should feel forced into handing over their personal information for reasons that are entirely fictitious is unacceptable. That this is taking place on our maternity wards, when new parents are vulnerable and not expecting such intrusion is appalling.
HMRC pay Bounty, to distribute Child Benefit Forms via Bounty packs. In 2011-2012 HMRC paid Bounty £90,000. I believe that in paying Bounty to distribute the forms, HMRC are giving Bounty a legitimacy that it otherwise would not have.
It appears that the Child Benefit form has become a tool that Bounty is using to its own commercial advantage. And HMRC is inadvertently helping Bounty to make money out of new parents.
I ask you as Treasury Secretary to:
1. Terminate HMRC’s contract with Bounty immediately
2. Find and publicise effectively alternative, non-commercial route/s for distribution of Child Benefit Forms. The Registry Office would seem like an obvious solution given that a birth must be registered before Child Benefit can be claimed.