Our Plan For Children
End Child Poverty
Child poverty deprives our youngest citizens of the chance to flourish and reach their potential – we want to end it by the early 2020s.
Cut Childcare Costs
Supporting the roll out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme and introducing a new Early Years Payment for all parents as well as paid parental leave.
Education Quality & Access
Reducing primary school class sizes and making primary education free by funding school books, transport and classroom resources.
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Ending Child Poverty
It’s a huge indictment of our country that one in nine, or about 132,000, of our children grow up in consistent poverty. In practical terms, this means they live in a household with a very low income and go without basics such as food or heat, or they face social exclusion. This is simply unacceptable.
Every year we hear this appalling statistic, but very little is done about it. Several Government Departments treat it as an afterthought. Child Poverty deprives thousands of our youngest citizens of the chance to flourish and reach their potential, and it perpetuates class and social division in future generations.
Allowing children fall behind so early in life stores up huge problems for the future, and it costs society dearly in the long run. Ending consistent child poverty by the early 2020s is readily achievable. Yet, amazingly, it’s still not Government policy.
Our proposals for children
The Social Democrats believe the eradication of child poverty over the next few years should be a major all-of-Government target.
We want to see a new national strategy to tackle this problem so that there is a renewed effort on the part of all Government Departments and Agencies to end consistent child poverty once and for all.
Measures we advocate include:
- Set official all-of-Government target of ending Consistent Child Poverty by the early 2020s – led by An Taoiseach;
- Replicate targeted area-based investment similar to the YoungBallymun programme in other disadvantaged areas. This would allow larger numbers of children to benefit from a programme with proven success in improving learning and well-being outcomes;
- Increase funding for TUSLA and recruit additional social workers, childcare workers, social care workers and other front-line staff to deal with the chronic shortage of intervention and prevention services for highly vulnerable children;
- Introduce a new Early Years Payment for all parents of young children and support the introduction of paid parental leave and extended unpaid parental leave;
- Reintroduce the full earnings disregard for lone parents;
- Improve funding to the DEIS programme and target the needs of disadvantaged students outside these areas. Expand the number of special needs assistants;
- Prioritise housing and start reducing the number of children living in hotel rooms and other emergency accommodation;
- Extend the school meals programme on a priority basis to ensure that all children have access to nutritious food;
- Implement a range of programmes and initiatives of support to parents in the critical 0-3 stage of development, focusing on parental well-being and early infant development;
- Roll-out the Sláintecare health reform plan, which will provide for the ramping up of frontline primary care services, including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and public health nurses;
- Poverty-proof all Budgets and set against the targets of the new Anti-Poverty Strategy.
Cutting Childcare & School Costs
Childcare costs can prove a huge barrier for women to return to the workforce – in some cases, women return simply to keep their job rather than gaining any extra income.
We are committed to cutting costs for parents by reducing out-of-pocket school and childcare expenses.
Our proposals include:
- Provide properly free primary education to all children to cover the costs of transport, books and classroom resources;
- Increase the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance;
- Support the continued roll-out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.
Paid parental leave
We fully support paid parental up until 12 months. We proposed such a move in each of our alternative Budget proposals for Budgets 2016, 2017 & 2018.
Improving Work-Life Balance
In our Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 we propose to extend unpaid parental leave for parents from the current four months to six months.
This longer period of childcare leave protects the employment rights of parents while allowing them to spend more time with their children. For parents with pre-school children in particular, unpaid parental leave might often be a more economical alternative to paying for formal childcare.
Childcare costs as barrier
Childcare costs can prove a huge barrier for women to return to the workforce – in some cases, women return simply to keep their job rather than gaining any extra income. This reform is about improving work-life balance for parents, encouraging women to remain in the workforce and helping reduce childcare costs.
Here’s how it would work
Parents can spread the 6 months (26 weeks) of unpaid work leave out over the years until their children reach the age of eight. This time can be used to cover mid-terms or school summer holidays – or simply to maximise parents’ time with their children in their early years. If parents have already taken all of their existing parental leave, they will be allowed an extra 8 weeks under our Bill – once they still have a qualifying child.
Why it’s a win-win
Our proposals are a win-win for working parents, for employers and for children. Extra leave helps with preventing absenteeism – when children are sick or have appointments. It also helps employers to hold on to key employees – evidence suggests that many working mothers in particular don’t return to work after having children because formal childcare is too costly. Of course, children themselves benefit greatly from additional time spent with their parents in their early years in particular. And parents who are less stressed with the demands of work and family life are able to devote more quality time to raising their children.
Our proposals for paid parental leave
Unpaid leave is not a substitute for paid parental leave, which the Social Democrats fully support up until 12 months Instead, it is a complimentary form of parental leave that offers parents additional flexibility in the work-life balance. The Social Democrats are committed to the introduction of paid parental leave, and proposed such a move in each of our alternative Budget proposals for Budgets 2016, 2017 & 2018. Under Dáil rules, opposition parties are prevented from proposing Bills where there is a cost to the State. This is why we have focused on unpaid parental leave in this Bill. We also support raising the child qualifying age for unpaid leave to 12 years old, in line with EU developments since our Bill was published. We will bring forward proposals in this regard when the Bill reaches committee stage. Ireland is well behind other countries when it comes to parental leave. Many countries allow parents four sets of leave – maternity, paternity, parental, and childcare/carers. According to the European Commission, the average duration of combined maternity and parental leave among Member States is 97.8 weeks. In Ireland this is only 60.
Download our Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017
Watch: Our plans to improve work-life balance
Working parents live incredibly busy lives. Our proposals seek to help improve work-life balance by increasing the amount of unpaid parental leave available to parents.
The Latest Children Press Releases
Ending Child Poverty
Read our detailed proposals to end child poverty for once and for all by the early 2020s.
Building a Better Future
See our Manifesto plan to improve state funding for childcare
Take a look at our Alternative Budget – Planning for our Future: An economy that works for all