Harris: 'We would be criticised if we funded people who weren't garda-vetted'
Health Minister Simon Harris has insisted that targeting the new payment to Tusla-registered child carers is the right choice.
When asked about all the parents being excluded from the payment because they use childminders who are not registered with Tusla, he said: "I think one would criticise the State if the State was providing funding to people who perhaps weren't garda-vetted.
"I understand people have lots of different arrangements but obviously for the State to provide a subsidy it is important that people go through the process of registration.
"But any childminder who gets registered with Tusla, or indeed any crèche, can avail of this. But this is very much year one of a larger programme that we hope to roll out because childcare costs from an economic point of view, but also from a societal point of view, are a massive burden on people.
"Yesterday was a start. I think it was quite an important start. In this country, we've had a history of children's allowance, which is a very important payment but perhaps we haven't invested in childcare as much.
"And I certainly know from my own county, from going around talking to people in Greystones and Bray, there are huge childcare costs that people are facing.
"So yesterday is just a start. The universality of it (the payment) is really important. The fact that every parent of a child between six months and three years will be able to access it."
Mr Harris defended the Budget overall in an interview with the Irish Independent.
He said: "I'm really pleased in my own area to have received the largest Exchequer investment in the health service ever, in a like-for-like basis.
"Obviously, there have been years in the past where the Department of Health's budget was higher, but that was when it also included the Department of Children.
"It's almost an extra billion for health from Budget 2016 to Budget 2017.
"It has provided me with an ability now to roll out initiatives that I've wanted to do since coming into office, such as the reactivation of the NTPF, which will provide us with an opportunity to try and cut down our waiting lists, targeting people waiting the longest.
"Also, providing an automatic entitlement to a medical card for any children in receipt of a domiciliary care allowance.
"There are between 10,000 and 11,000 children who currently don't have that. It provides us with the opportunity to do more in the area of mental health, including the go-ahead for the Portrane Central Forensic Hospital, a major project that we talked about for years."