Wednesday, 13 June 2018
I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 53 together. The Government is committed to supporting parents in caring for young children at home in a range of ways. Within the remit of my Department, a number of schemes provide support to parents whether they work full time, part time, or stay at home. For example, from September of 2018 all children aged from two years and eight months will be entitled to access two years of free pre-school through the Early Childhood and Education, ECCE, programme. Some 114,000 children are expected to benefit this September, many of whom will be children of stay-at-home parents. The current targeted childcare schemes are available to families where parents are in receipt of certain social welfare payments or medical cards, again many of whom are stay-at-home parents. A universal childcare subsidy is available to all parents of children under three, regardless of whether parents are working or not. The affordable childcare scheme, ACS, which is under development will make childcare subsidies available on the basis of family income and will be available to stay-at-home parents. More widely across Government, there are various initiatives that support stay-at-home parents. A child benefit payment of €140 per month is available to all children. Budget 2018 increased the home carer tax credit to €1,200 per year. There has also been a number of new measures to support parents to spend time at home with children in their early years. Two weeks of paternity leave and benefit for fathers was introduced in 2016. In 2017, there was an extension to maternity leave and benefit to mothers of babies born prematurely. Currently, my Department is also drafting a cross-Government early years strategy. The strategy will include a range of measures to support families given the fundamental importance they play in shaping children’s outcomes. I look forward to updating the House on those developments later this year.