I was reading this excellent post from Fertile Feminism about the pernicious “Bounty lady” on postnatal wards in the UK, when something I’d been wondering about clicked.
The pack contains a few inoffensive and even useful things, certainly — Child Benefit and Child Trust Fund forms
Oh. Is that where everyone else got them? I had both my babies at home and nobody, ever, has mentioned child benefit to me, or explained how to get it. What with general new-baby blur and, in both cases, postnatal depression, it was months before I managed to get into town to an open post office, locate a form, fill it in and send off the documentation. In both cases, I lost some money because of my late application. And if I’d grown up in another country, there’s no reason why, to this day, I’d know that I was even entitled to Child Benefit.
So, I’d been thinking this was a sad state of affairs for an allegedly “universal” benefit: that it was available only to mothers who knew about it, and could manage to go through the several steps of obtaining it while dealing with a tiny baby. Turns out the reality is perhaps more bothersome: the distribution of benefits information is left to commercial interests in maternity hospitals, and not provided at all to home-birthing mothers. Why isn’t it given when you register your child’s birth, an experience that actually is universal? Hmm.