Kate Livingstone: Oh baby, who is paying for boxes?

There's excitement in the office with a colleague soon to go off on maternity leave for her first baby.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 15th January 2017, 6:54 am

We love her dearly, but even her nearest and dearest admit that she is not the most organised of people. So you can imagine our surprise to be informed that she had bought everything on her list of essentials and, despite having several weeks to go, her hospital bag is packed and placed strategically at her door.

She’s brought in some of the things from her shopping trips and you should have heard us all oohing and aahing over tiny mittens and little sleepsuits that look like they would only fit a doll.

Hard to think that my two were ever that small!

However, we were all left gasping at the cost of prams/car seats/cots/carrycots/changing units ... need I go on?

“Do you really need to buy all these things at once?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she replied. “Want to have it all there for when we get home from hospital.”

Then she started telling me about these baby boxes that the Government is handing out to new parents.

“They’re filled with lots of stuff that you can use, but apparently it’s only a trial at the moment and it’s not till later on that everyone is getting one, so we’ll miss out,” she added pulling a face.

“Everyone?” I queried, “even if they can afford to buy all the things?”

“Yes, everyone is going to be getting them. They say it’s about £100-worth of stuff in them. Sounds good.”

So that started off a good old debate amongst everyone in the office about whether or not it is a sensible idea.

“It’s like the free school meals for all the youngest children in schools,” someone piped up. “Means that there is no stigma.”

I could see the point in that. I’m sure we can all remember from our own schooldays those children who were labelled ‘poor’ because they got a ticket for school meals without handing over any money.

“It’s the same with prescriptions,” said another colleague. “I don’t have to pay for mine and that’s very nice, but really I’m in full-time employment, so shouldn’t I be paying and that money going towards something else in the health service?”

We couldn’t come to an agreement. Some people thought that if all these things were being handed out then why not, with others feeling that it was money being thrown away.

But although these things are all labelled ‘free’ I’m sure we’re paying for them some way or another.