Last year the introduction of a 'granny grant' - a payment every year of €1,000 to grandparents who look after their grandchildren for more than 10 hours a week, sparked widespread public debate. The Children's Minister today confirmed that it won't be going ahead. Amanda Cassidy on why it was a ridiculous idea in the first place.
I'm an unswayable cynic about most things, but when it came to the idea of giving every grandparent that minds their grandchildren a wad of cash for their service, I almost strained my eyes I was eye-rolling so much.
It was nothing but a well-timed political stunt which the country couldn't afford anyway. So it was no surprise that Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said that she is now not considering a so-called 'granny grant' proposal to help the estimated 70,000 grandparents across the country who care for grandchildren. Instead, this week she launched proposals for state subsidies to those parents who use registered childminders.
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Speaking at the launch Zappone confirmed that while she "highly values the contribution grandparents choose to make in relation to their grandchildren, 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."
Don't get me wrong, grandparents are a critical part of every family dynamic. There are thousands of amazing grandparents putting in more than their fair share of time when it comes to minding their grandchildren - mine included. But it isn't up to grandparents to be responsible for the child-care for the children of working parents. Expecting them to taken on the burden of childcare in the autumn of their life is a band aid on a festering limb.
Not only would it increase the pressure on those who's children have children to take a more active role in minding them but a paltry thousand euro a year to do it is also pretty dismal.
Had it gone ahead, it would mean around 2 euro a day. Better than nothing, I hear you say, but expecting to shore up the childcare problems that exist in our country by offering our older citizens (who've already raised their own family) a few coins less than the price of a cup of tea, is simply an insult.
The sentiment is there - the nod to all those who've been roped in to mind their grandchildren but billing it as a solution for working parents to solve their childcare problems is wrong.
Emer Phelan is an accountant and mother of two children, her eldest daughter Sarah has Down's syndrome and she is looked after currently by Emer's mum. Emer says that the childcare options, especially for after school, are so limited that they have little choice. "My mum is almost 80. She doesn't have the energy that she used to.
My daughters are quite easy as they are 9 and 11, but it is really hard to find good childcare that doesn't cost the earth. I'd prefer not to use my mum. She'd never have taken the 'granny grant' had it come to fruition but the whole childcare issue is just so hard to handle when you are a working parent. We shouldn't be putting more pressure on grandparents to mind their grandchildren or they'll feel obliged".
Some critics have suggested that a tax credit would have been a better option than focusing on cash incentives for grandparents when it comes to childcare. But now the government is focusing on registering childminders who mind children in their own home instead.
Zappone's plans include a new regulation system for those types of childminders. She hopes that around 10, 000 childminders will resister onto the system in the coming years to join the existing 19,000 minders that already exist.
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