After-school childcare plans to target struggling parents
Hard-pressed parents are set to benefit from a plan to use schools to provide low-cost evening time childcare.
Under proposals being prepared by the Government, primary schools would be kept open for two hours for supervised play and homework clubs.
The move would allow working parents to save money on childcare and work extra hours without having to worry about working around school hours.
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The opening of schools for longer is expected to form part of the pay talks with teacher unions which open later this year.
The arrangements would need the cooperation of principals, teachers, management and parents groups.
After-school care is currently provided by some schools, but the programmes are not coordinated on a national level.
The proposals are currently being teased out by an interdepartmental working group looking at childcare costs.
The ministers and officials from a variety of departments in the group have discussed the proposals already.
Providing childcare grants or tax breaks for parents are being ruled out as these measures are too expensive and merely drive up the cost of childcare.
The provision of a second year of free pre-school is being promised by the Coalition.
But it is unclear when exactly this will happen or how much it will cost.
The after-school care scheme is also being worked out. Coalition sources pointed out similar plans were experimented with before but didn't succeed.
"It gives you a lowish cost way to do it. It was kind of tried before under previous governments, but never really followed through.
"The prize would be to get this in on a concerted basis right across the country. It's low-cost and you're not talking about building new facilities.
"It's hitting the primary school cohort of parents. It's making it easier for them to work more and cutting childcare costs," a senior source said.
Keeping the schools open would form part of talks on reversing pay cuts introduced during the economic collapse.
The reversal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest cuts will be negotiated later this year.
The Government is expected to seek additional reforms from public sector workers, such as teachers, for the pay rises.
"One of the reforms we would like to see is around the use of school facilities," a source said.
The Coalition has been seeking solutions to assist parents with childcare and the cost of sending children to school.
It has already toyed with extending back-to-school grants and funding for book clubs.
Providing care for children before and after school hours is known as 'wraparound childcare'. The British Labour Party is offering parents of primary school children guaranteed access to childcare from 8am to 6pm ahead of the Westminster general election.
Tanaiste Joan Burton is keen to put together a package of measures aimed at parents, including:
- restoring child benefit cuts;
- a fortnight of paternity leave for fathers;
- a second year of free pre-school;
- additional childcare assistance.
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The Residential Land Availability Survey map was created by drawing together zoning maps held by each local authority in the State.
Developed by the Department of the Environment, it sets out individual plots of land in towns, villages, cities and rural areas, and indicates the number of homes permitted on each site.
It took almost two years to develop, and provides planners and developers with an overview of the available land for housing.
It does not include land zoned for mixed-use development, which would generally include some housing provision. Nor does it include derelict sites.
The data is based on the situation as of March 31 last. Stage 1 land is considered not viable for development in the short-term because necessary services such as water are not in place. Stage 2 land has no major constraints. Not all the land has planning permission.