Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Granny grant' could be extended to other family members who provide childcare

  • Ross says payment could be extended to aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers who provide free childcare
  • Mr Ross also said the payment would be available to a child’s four grandparents
  • Fine Gael ministers critical of proposal
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Stock image
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A €1,000 State grant for grandparents who provide childcare for their grandchildren could be extended to other family members who mind children while their parents are working.

Transport Minister Shane Ross yesterday doubled down on his Budget demand by insisting the controversial payment could be extended to aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers who provide free childcare.

Despite growing criticism of his proposal, Mr Ross also said the payment would be available to a child’s four grandparents if they all provided more than 10 hours childcare a week for the same grandchild.

This means the State could potentially pay €4,000 per child under a scheme the Independent Alliance has insisted should be included in this year’s Budget.

“We will start by looking at how it worked with grandparents and if there was a demand or a justification of extending it to other people that would be absolutely fair enough,” Mr Ross said.

During an interview with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ, the Independent minister also revealed that the ‘grandparent and grandchild reimbursement scheme’ would not be policed or inspected as he believes it will not be abused. Mr Ross said grandparents would also not be required to make vouched expense claims as it would be “pretty complicated” and involve an “awful lot of administration and paperwork”.

However, the proposal is expected to face resistance from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who yesterday said there were “really big questions” surrounding how the payment would work.

“If you think of all the other members of family, and friends, who also perform duties looking after young children and do so on a voluntary basis, I think they would be asking me in particular – what about them?” Mr Donohoe said.

However, he said he would examine the proposal with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Ms Zappone has previously said she is opposed to a grandparent grant.

Within Fine Gael, ministers were privately critical of the proposal. One minister described the proposal as a “load of s***e”, while another said the Independent Alliance ministers would have to fund the proposal out of their own departmental budgets.

Transport Minister Shane Ross wants to reduce the impact of
childcare costs for parents. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Transport Minister Shane Ross wants to reduce the impact of childcare costs for parents. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Opposition politicians also roundly criticised the grant.

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said the idea was “not very well thought out”.

“There are a lot grandparents providing childminding services free but some of them are very wealthy and the last thing they need is a payment from the State,” Mr O’Dea said.

Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said the payment was a “pathetic attempt” by the Alliance to resolve the childcare crisis.

“An annual payment of €1,000 will give the princely sum of €19.20 per week to grandparents; hardly an appropriate recognition of the sacrifice and dedication involved in caring for children,” she said.

Early Childhood Ireland director of policy Frances Byrne said she believed there was “not much merit” to the grant as it was not evidence based. She said it was a “willy nilly payment” delivered into people’s pockets without any paperwork.

Third Age communication manager Anne Dempsey said she was in favour of rewarding older people who allow mothers and fathers to return to work.

Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan said: “We should recognise the social and economic contribution made by older people in our communities.”

Mr Halligan insisted he got a “great reaction” from constituents who heard about the grandparent grant proposal.

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