Making Life Easier for Families with Fine Gael

20th January, 2020

Fine Gael in government will use benefits of a strong economy to make life easier for families

The Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe; the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty; and the Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh today (Monday) set out Fine Gael’s plans to use our economic progress to make life easier on families and give children the best start in life.

Fine Gael in government will:

·        Extend Parental Leave: We will provide a further seven weeks for paid parental leave in addition to the existing 2 weeks parental leave introduced in 2019. This applies to each child per parent, benefitting up to 60,000 parents every year. This will be in addition to existing maternity and paternity leave, so that by 2025 mothers can avail of 35 paid weeks and fathers 11 paid weeks. 

·       Extend Hot Meals in Schools: We are expanding the programme so that by the end of this year 42,000 children across the country will be  provided with a hot meal every day. We will continue this level of expansion over the next five-years, focusing in the first instance on providing hot meals to the most vulnerable children in our society.

·       Free School Books at Primary Level: We will introduce a free school books scheme for all primary schools

·       Student & Parent Charter Bill: We have published the Student and Parent Charter Bill, already progressing through the Oireachtas and commit to enacting it. Once enacted it will see more consultation with students and parents, publish school financial statements including details on how voluntary contributions are used and provide a fair complaints procedures.

Minister Paschal Donohoe said:

“Responsible, prudent management of our economy over the last number of years means more jobs and putting more money in people’s pockets.

“A strong economy is the foundation of a fair society – it means resources are once more available to invest in vital public services such as health, education, transport, employing more nurses, doctors, teachers, Gardaí. 

“We understand the pressures faced by parents jugging responsibilities at home and at work. We have already introduced paid paternity leave, parental leave for both parents and extended unpaid leave.  Investment in childcare has increased by 138% over the past five budgets leading to a doubling in capacity and a doubling in the number of children receiving State subsidies.  The consistent poverty rate for children is now at its lowest level since 2008, with the at-risk-of-poverty and the deprivation rate are also falling.

“But we know this is not enough. Fine Gael in government will do more to make life easier on families and give children the best start in life.”

Minister Regina Doherty said:

“I am acutely aware of the pressures on parents and families. We want to give parents more time to spend with their children particularly in that vital first year and reduce childcare costs for parents further.  We will provide a further seven weeks for paid parental leave for both parents, helping up to 60,000 parents every year to spend more time with their children.

“We are extending the hot meal scheme so that by the end of 2020 42,000 children will get a hot meal in school every day. We will build on this and continue to extend the scheme to the most vulnerable children in our society.”

Minister Joe McHugh said:

“We are committed to removing barriers to education. We have already expanded the DEIS programme, taking in an additional 79 schools. We have expanded supports to children with special educational needs, increasing the number of SNAs to over 17,000, the number of Special Education Teachers by 225 to over 13,600 and the number of Special classes by 535 to 1839. We have also increased the number of teachers in our classrooms, bringing the pupil teacher ratio at primary level to it’s lowest ever level. Fine Gael in government will introduce a free school books scheme to all children in primary school. We will enact the Parents and Students Charter Bill, giving parents and students a voice in their education. One by one, we will remove barriers to access to education, giving all children the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.”

Notes to Editor

What we’ve done to date to make life easier for families

Social Protection

·       Parental Leave – From the end of last year, parents of new-born children have had an additional entitlement of an extra two weeks paid leave each, which can be taken, at any time in the first year of their child’s life.

·       Hot Meals in Schools – In 2019 Fine Gael provided free-of-charge hot school meals to more than 7,000 children, as part of a pilot programme. In Budget 2020, we committed to continue the roll out of this new initiative by providing hot meals to a further 35,000 children in primary schools.

·       Tackling child poverty – Recent Budgets have introduced a number of measures that have had and will continue to have a direct and positive impact on child poverty. Since 2017, the Government increased maximum weekly welfare payments by €15 per week, introduced a new qualified child rate for children.  There were also changes to the Working Family Payment, the One Parent Family and Jobseeker Transition payments.


·       Free School Books – In Budget 2020 we committed that from September 2020 we will provide free school books to 15,500 pupils in the most disadvantaged areas. Removing this financial burden from families.

·       Student & Parent Charter Bill – We published the Education (Student & Parent Charter) Bill 2019 designed to reform and improve the relationship between schools and the students and parents they serve.

·       Bereavement during Exams – We recognise how difficult it can be for students and their families if they suffer a bereavement during the Leaving Cert exams. Last year we introduced a system allowing student who suffer the loss of a close family member during their Leaving Cert to postpone some exams and will review this to examine the scope to expand it. 

·       Supporting Small Schools – In Budget 2020 we reduced the Pupil Teacher Ratio for small schools with four or less teachers to make it easier for small schools to retain their current level of teachers or gain an additional teacher.

·       Special Education – Supporting school children with additional needs is a priority. From 2017 to 2020 the number of SNAs will grow by 3,045 to over 17,000, the number of Special Education Teachers by 225 to over 13,600 and the number of Special classes by 535 to 1839.