Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore, has welcomed today’s Cabinet approval to extend Parental Leave by a further three weeks. However, she has urged the Department of Children to make it payable to parents at the start of the new year and not in April 2021, as proposed in the Budget.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on Children, said:

“I welcome any paid extension to benefits as we are lagging far behind our European neighbours in the provision of financial supports to parents with small children. This three-week extension will really help families in their first year of parenting.

“However, I am disappointed that more hasn’t been done to bring forward the start date to earlier in the new year. At a meeting of the Children’s Committee, I sought clarification from Minister O’Gorman on when parents can begin accessing the extended benefit, which was announced in Budget 2021.

“The new measure was originally to be introduced in April 2021. However, the Minister indicated to me that the Government was working towards bringing it in sooner by allowing parents to take leave earlier in the new year and then claim the benefit back after April.

“While I welcome today’s Cabinet’s approval, legislation still must be drafted and introduced before the extended payment can take effect. The Minister has indicated that legislation will be introduced in the new year but parents still require certainty before the Christmas holidays and need to be able to plan ahead for work and family life.

“I am urging the Minister to commit to bringing the additional Parental Leave in sooner rather than later.

“I had previously raised the issue in the Dáil with the Tánaiste, stating that parents should not have to wait until April to access the newly announced leave, as many are unable to source childcare in the current Covid-19 crisis.

“Furthermore, if parents had a start date they would know when they could claim Parental Leave and be able to organise time off work if needed.

“This is a positive step towards what we in the Social Democrats have been calling for – paid Parental Leave for the first full year of a child’s life in line with other European countries. I will continue to monitor early years policies and will push for progressive increases in financial supports for parents in Ireland.”

December 8, 2020

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