Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Questions (87)

Niamh Smyth


87. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to support stay-at-home parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29376/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Government is committed to supporting parents in caring for young children at home in a range of ways. 

Within my remit as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the policy priorities are to provide access to high quality and affordable Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC), whether parents work or are in education full time or part time, or look after their children at home full-time. These policies seek to support children’s optimal development, to support families, and to ensure that families can choose options to best suit their needs and preferences. 

All children are eligible to avail of two years of universal pre-school, without cost.  Almost 108,000 children are currently participating, many of whom are children of stay-at-home parents. 

Current targeted ELC and SAC subsidy schemes are available to families where parents are in receipt of certain social welfare payments, medical cards, or GP Visit cards, many of whom are stay-at-home parents. 

A universal subsidy is available to all parents of children from six months until their child becomes eligible for universal pre-school, regardless of whether parents are working outside the home or not. The National Childcare Scheme which will be open for applications later this year will make subsidies available on the basis of family income and will also be available to stay-at-home parents. 

My Department also provides funding for parent and toddler groups to organise activities for parents and children in the community to support their development through play. Both working parents and stay-at-home parents participate.  449 groups were supported in 2018. 

My Department is also developing a new model of parenting services covering key stages of child development and taking account of parents and children in a range of contexts and parenting relationships. 

More widely across Government, there are various initiatives that support stay-at-home parents. A child benefit payment of €140 per child per month is available for all children. Budget 2019 announced an increase to the home carer tax credit to €1,500 per year. 

There have 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.  Budget 2019 announced the introduction of a new paid parental leave scheme which will be available to both fathers and mothers from later this year.   

First 5, a Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, published in November 2018, includes over 150 actions including a broad a range of measures to support families given their fundamental importance in shaping children’s experiences and outcomes. The First 5 Implementation Plan, published in May, sets out how these actions, many of which will benefit stay-at-home parents, will be progressed in the coming three years.   

Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 85.