BUDGET 2016: Government hoping to win over young parents

The Government has used its final budget to woo young parents, who were among the worst hit by the economic crash.

BUDGET 2016: Government hoping to win over young parents

Ahead of an imminent general election, the Coalition unveiled a health, education, and welfare spending package aimed at struggling families.

Key among the reforms is free childcare for children from the age of three years to five-and-a-half, or until they start primary school.

Parents of toddlers have been saddled for years with crèche fees the equivalent of a mortgage.

Young parents who bought starter homes at the height of the boom, which halved in value and were soon outgrown by their new family, also took the brunt of the property crash.

In another sweetener, child benefit payments are to go up by €5 from next year to €140 per month for every child.

Also, 12 years after the UK introduced two weeks’ statutory paternity leave, the Coalition has announced similar measures. If legislation is passed, the leave will take effect from next September, the Government said.

In the meantime, the UK has brought in shared parental leave of up to 50 weeks.

Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin welcomed the decision to commit to two weeks paid paternity leave.

“I have always believed that a core part of the equality agenda needed to address the imbalance in paternity leave structures.. . over the last several months, i have been working on the family leave bill, which aims to consolidate all of the existing pieces of legislation relating to family leave this bill can now allow for the addition of paid leave for fathers of newborn children.

"When passed and enacted, it will give the legislative basis for paid paternity leave, recognising the special time for parents upon the birth of their child.”

Another flagship promise towards young families in the budget is the extension of free GP care. Currently only available to under 6s (and over 70s), the coalition said it wants to extend the scheme to all children under 12 years.

However, the proposal will be “subject to successful negotiation with doctors’ representatives,” admitted Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

Funding is also being earmarked for therapeutic services for children, particularly for speech-and-language therapy.

The threshold for the family income supplement is set to increase by €5 per week for families with one child and by €10 per week for families with two or more children.

More modest commitments include €3m towards after-school services in school buildings.

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