The Government has used its final Budget to woo young parents who were among the worst hit by the country’s punishing economic crash.

Ahead of an imminent general election, the coalition unveiled a health, education and welfare spending package aimed at struggling families.

Key among the reforms is free childcare for children from three years of age until they are five and a half, or until they start primary school.

Parents of toddlers have been saddled for years in many parts of the country with creche fees the equivalent of paying an extra mortgage.

Young parents who bought starter homes at the height of the boom which halved in value and were soon outgrown by their new family also took the brunt of the property crash.

In another sweetener, Child Benefit payments are to go up by five euro from next year, to €140 per month for every child.