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Thursday 19 September 2019

No grants for grannies as childcare plan laid out

Support: Katherine Zappone launches the Draft Childminding Action Plan yesterday.
Photo: Maxwells
Support: Katherine Zappone launches the Draft Childminding Action Plan yesterday. Photo: Maxwells
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Grandparents who help with childcare will not get any State support, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has decided.

Ms Zappone said she would not consider a so-called 'granny grant' proposal to help the estimated 70,000 grandparents across the country who care for grandchildren - or other relatives who look after children in their family.

She dismissed the plans as she launched proposals for State subsidies to those parents who use registered childminders.

"I highly value the contribution grandparents choose to make in relation to their grandchildren," Ms Zappone told the Irish Independent.

"The National Childcare Scheme I am developing is for those who are professionals in the system and who we can hold to account in terms of the quality that is provided and the safety of our children."

Last year, the Independent Alliance, led by Transport Minister Shane Ross, pushed for the introduction of a 'granny grant' - a €1,000 annual payment to grandparents who look after their grandchildren for more than 10 hours a week.

The proposal did not make it into the Budget, but triggered widespread public debate about the childcare role of grandparents and recognition of their contribution.

Ms Zappone said yesterday: "I have already said there is nothing for grandparents in the context of the National Childcare Scheme.

"As you know, we do support parents in lots of other different ways."

Asked if she would examine any proposal to help grandparents, she responded: "No, I would not."

Under Ms Zappone's plans, a bespoke regulation system for childminders who look after other people's children in their own homes is to be set up within the next three years.

Thousands of childminders are now being urged to register with Tusla and, in some instances, improve their skills to allow parents to access state subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme.

The Government believes there are as many as 19,000 childminders in the country, but does not have accurate data. It expects between 5,000 and 10,000 childminders to register in the coming years.

The Department of Children has also warned that those who do not register could face prosecution.

Rosaleen O'Connor, a childminder in north Dublin for 22 years, said she deregistered from Tusla four years ago due to burdensome regulations.

"The reason I deregistered was due to ridiculous inspections, coming into a family home and basically wanting you to get into a crèche. I am in favour if they follow proper inspections," she said.

Ms O'Connor added parents should be able to get relief on childcare, but any regime needed to be conscious that children were being looked after in a family home.

Ms Zappone told this newspaper that a system would be designed specifically for childminders. "We need to establish some form of regulations but they need to be specific, appropriate, [and] proportionate to somebody who is minding children in their own home and welcoming them into their family context," she said.

The plan is now being put out for public consultation.

Irish Independent

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