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A Cheshire East woman was told she would have to wait six months for an appointment to register her baby’s birth, councillors heard.

Members of the audit and governance committee are now seeking assurances that, if there are delays, it won’t prevent families from claiming child benefit immediately after the baby’s birth.

Committee chair Cllr Margaret Simon (Wistaston, Con) told the meeting: “At the beginning of July, I had a personal enquiry from a resident in my ward who had just given birth to a new baby and she wanted to register the baby with a view to getting the baby on to her passport.

“The date she was given for registration was December and that was going to be much, much too late for what she needed the passport for.

“I was able to get her an urgent appointment. But how are we doing? Is it really six months before we can offer a registration appointment for birth?”

Jane Burns, executive director of corporate services, said registrations had been carried out but in a different format.

She said she didn’t have up-to-date information on how the registrations service was performing but said it had been an incredibly challenging 18 months for staff in that department in particular.

“The team have been under huge pressure, particularly around deaths, obviously the number of deaths has increased,” she said.

“Also marriages and civil ceremonies. A number of those have been off and back on again and certainly, when the Covid restrictions started to lift and the levels of infection continued to rise, that did present some challenges for the team because a number of them were self-isolating.”

Cllr Rachel Bailey (Audlem, Con) asked: “Is it not the case that that registration of the birth is key in terms of child benefit because, if it is, are we having families who are not able to access benefit for six months?”

She added: “It’s assurance I require.”

Cllr Bailey was told that babies’ births are still being registered and the families are able to claim child benefit but the relevant information would be provided to the committee to reassure members.

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