The Minister for Children has said that parents should be able to stay at home and look after their children in the first year of their lives, if they want to do so.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Katherine Zappone said the departments of Justice and Social Protection are laying out policy which makes a commitment for up to seven weeks' paid parental leave for both parents by 2021.

The minister said while this is "still short", it is a massively increased investment.

She added that other initiatives will be rolled out for children's first years, including baby boxes and book bags.

Ms Zappone said the ten-year strategy was committed to reducing child poverty, including the introduction of a DEIS-style model of early child learning and care to provide extra supports in the early years, and meal provision for children.

She added that hot meals would be introduced in all DEIS primary schools as part of the strategy.


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Speaking at the launch of the First 5 plan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is the first strategy of its kind in Ireland and will build on the developments for young children in recent years, including family leave, free GP care for under sixes and a new children's hospital.

The major areas of action are access to a broad range of options for working parents, new developments in child health, a new model of parenting support led by a new Parenting Unit in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, reform of the early learning and care system and a package of measures to tackle early childhood poverty.