Varadkar sets out plans for paid 'family leave' support in child's first year

New parents are set to be given a paid "family leave" support from the Government which will see them able to share State grants and time off after a birth any way they like in the first year of a child’s life, writes Irish Examiner Political Correspondent Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed the "aspiration" during a Fine Gael national conference speech in which he also said a "reformed" social insurance system will give sick pay to people who have taken time off to care for relatives.

On the opening evening of the two day party conference tonight, Mr Varadkar insisted that despite ongoing criticism his Government is ignoring the needs of hard-pressed families "the Government is on your side".

Claiming Fine Gael has "never" been a party of privilege, he told delegates during a live RTE speech at the four-star Slieve Russell Golf and Country Club Hotel in Co Cavan that he will help families and those in need.

"Making life easier for families is a priority for me and for this party," Mr Varadkar said.

"I believe in greater work-life balance and work-place flexibility. That must be better supported, particularly in the early years.

"That is why we introduced paternity leave and now we want to go further. Our aspiration is to have paid family leave that can be shared between parents in the first year of their child’s life, and we are determined to make it a reality," he said.

During the same speech, Mr Varadkar also said he is in favour of improving "how we care for" people who support "seriously ill or dependent relatives".

In a move that has been long-sought by carers associations, he said:

"Because the family is the basic unit of society, we want to improve how we care for seriously ill or dependent relatives.

"A reformed social insurance system will provide sick pay for people who have to take time off work to care for loved ones who are seriously ill."

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