Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

305 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will consider payment of unemployment benefit to parents who take the 14 weeks parental leave up to the time their child is five years old; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15302/02]

Unemployment benefit is payable to unemployed people who are capable of, available for and genuinely seeking work, provided they have sufficient PRSI contributions. Parental leave, which lasts for 14 weeks, is available to each parent of a child aged under five years, to enable them to take care of their child. In the circumstances, as a person taking such leave is not unemployed, unemployment benefit cannot be paid during the period of parental leave. Any proposals to extend unemployment benefit along the lines suggested by the Deputy would have major implications for the scheme, and there are no proposals for such an extension at present.