By: Deputy Kathleen Funchion
Sinn Fein TD for Kilkenny Carlow
Sinn Féin is supportive of extending paid parental leave and has welcomed the Government’s commitment to finally fulfil its promises on Paid Parent’s Leave but warned there can be no further delays.
I welcome that Minister O’Gorman has said that the additional Paid Parent’s Leave will be paid from next month, April 2021.
At present parents can only take two weeks paid leave, this is set to increase to five weeks. It will take effect from April 2021 and will apply retrospectively, giving parents who have already taken two weeks’ parent’s leave an extra three weeks in 2021.
The change will entitle parents whose child was born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019 to five weeks’ leave, which they can take at any time in the first two years after the birth or adoption of the child.
Parent’s Benefit, which is paid by the Department of Social Protection is currently €245 a week for two weeks. Once extended, it will be available for five weeks, taken either together or as separate weeks.
It was initially pledged last summer and was included in the Budget five months ago. These delays in releasing the money have been totally unacceptable and families have been placed under huge financial pressure by the Government’s failure to make this a priority.
My colleague Claire Kerrane and I have raised this issue repeatedly in the Dáil. I welcome that this is finally happening but it does not erase the totally unnecessary stress that this Government has caused families through its inaction.
I note that the Minister has said payments will be back-paid. I would urge him to ensure that this money goes into families’ pockets without delay. Given the delays so far, it would be entirely unacceptable for further delays. This latest commitment cannot be allowed to become yet another broken promise by this Government.
The Government must prioritise ensuring that this money is released urgently, so parents can get much needed help.
I also want to commend the many parents and campaigners who have been campaigning so passionately on this important issue. It is vital that ordinary families across the state are not ignored and that the extremely difficult challenges they are facing are recognised by the Government.
It is also important that the Minister amends existing legislation to extend these supports to parents who have had babies through surrogacy
Sinn Fein will continue to hold the Government to account on this until families get the support they need.