The Politically Speaking column with Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen

CHOICE: If the mum is the higher earner and wants to return to work the dad should be able to take leave without losing any maternity pay.
CHOICE: If the mum is the higher earner and wants to return to work the dad should be able to take leave without losing any maternity pay.

For those of you who earn a living freelancing or are self-employed, having children can be a financially daunting prospect.

Shared parental leave, which enables parents to split their 50 weeks leave after the birth of their child and 37 weeks of statutory pay, has been enshrined in law since 2015 for most people. But the right does not apply to all.

Those who are often already living a precarious existence in the self-employed sector – something I have plenty of experience of in my previous career as an actor and writer – are unjustly ignored.

In Parliament on Wednesday I proposed my first Bill which I hope will eventually become law, giving self-employed people, freelancers and those labouring in the insecure gig economy the same right to share their parental leave as everyone else. And for those of you wondering who is going to pay for it, you needn’t worry – it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

The Bill, which already has cross-party support, will simply allow new mums to share their maternity leave and pay with their partner.

It means that if the mum is the higher earner and chooses to return to work, the dad will be able to take the leave without losing the £140 per week Statutory Maternity Pay.

This might not seem like a huge sum of money, but for some it is the difference between a supermarket and a food bank.

Since the Shared Parental Leave legislation was passed, only around 2% of eligible families have taken advantage.

But a survey by the Parental Pay Equality campaign group found that more than 70% of families who depend upon a freelance income would use the scheme.

Considering almost 14% of the workforce in Yorkshire are self-employed, this could make a big difference to a lot of people.

Having had an inbox full of concerns about burglaries and car crime, I secured a public meeting with Inspector Rauf from the neighbourhood policing team which I chaired last week.

And despite the cold, many turned out to air their grievances.

The distressing and, in some cases, deeply upsetting stories we heard from attendees laid bare the devastating effect austerity is having on our police force.

West Yorkshire Police Force works incredibly hard, but some people feel as though they are being failed.

No one in our fantastic community should have to feel that way.

However, the numbers tell their own story.

This is a police force that has nearly 1,000 fewer police officers than in 2010 and almost 200 fewer PCSOs.

How can we expect the same level of service when the axe continues to fall?

But, that said, there were some positives to be taken from the meeting as West Yorkshire Police do their utmost to protect us in a climate of cuts.

Inspector Rauf announced that, from the end of March, there will be a return to a “pre-austerity” policing model in Batley and Spen which will see more resources and more police officers in our patch.

We were assured there will be a more visible police presence, so let’s hope it has the desired effect.