Congress Responds to Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families
19 Nov 2018
First 5, A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families a positive development that has potential to deliver real changes for working families
The Government today unveiled ‘First 5’, Ireland’s first ever cross-Departmental strategy to support babies, young children and their families.
Reacting to the plan, Congress Equality Officer David Joyce acknowledged that the plan sets out an important roadmap on how to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families.
Of particular note is the confirmation of the planned introduction of paid parental leave, which will see the gradual introduction of a non-transferable (between parents) paid parental leave in the first year of a child’s life, rising to seven weeks parental leave over a three year period from late 2019.
This would be in addition to existing schemes of 26 weeks paid maternity leave and the recently introduced 2 weeks paternity leave (to be taken during the 26 weeks following the birth of a child).
Congress Equality Officer, David Joyce said: “This is a progressive step that would in effect mean that parents would have up to 42 weeks of some form of paid leave during the first year of a child’s life. It will enhance families’ ability to reconcile work and family life and enable fathers to play a more active role in family responsibilities”.
Congress has long held the position that such arrangements should cover the full first year of a child’s life and notes that the proposal as planned falls short of this by some 10 weeks.
The Reform of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) system, including a new funding model is also a significant area of action signalling increased investment and more favourable working conditions that will help to attract and retain staff in the sector. Current investment levels lag behind those of our EU partners and result in exorbitant costs faced by families and an undervalued workforce where qualified educators earn on average less than €11 an hour with many on precarious 15-hour a week and 38-weeks a year contracts. Congress has consistently questioned the feasibility of achieving better early years services based on low pay and poor conditions and looks forward to an early resolution of this significant barrier to achieving many of the objectives laid out in today’s strategy.
David Joyce 087 226 0213