All four grandparents could claim €1,000 childcare grant under Ross plan

Minister: ‘They’re doing the State a great service’ by allowing parents to go back working

Minister for Transport Shane Ross made the comments while speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Transport Shane Ross made the comments while speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

All four grandparents and other family members could claim a childcare grant proposed by the Independent Alliance and with Minister for Transport Shane Ross insisting the plan will not be abused.

The minister has defended the pre-Budget proposal for a €1,000 grant for grandparents who provide childcare for their grandchildren.

“This payment would work very simply, grandparents who look after their grandchildren for their parents for a certain amount of time, per week or per year, would be recognised by the State, by getting money which they would be out of pocket for,” he explained to RTÉ’s Today with Miriam show on Wednesday.

“There are large amounts of expenses involved in doing this particular child minding job, including petrol, meals, heating and other expenses but it would be as much a reimbursement as a recognition that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of grandparents in the State are doing a job which maybe the State should be doing itself. They’re making great sacrifices.”

Mr Ross said he has come across so many grandparents who are doing this “and they’re saying they’re not recognised, that ‘we’re doing this in our own time, we’re out of pocket and the State should recognise that we’re doing the State a service.’

He said the proposal is that the system be self assessment at least initially to see how it works. “They’d be making the claim from the State themselves. It’s not unique in the Department of Social Protection for people to self assess, the Living Alone allowance people declare that they’re living alone and I don’t anticipate this being abused any more than anything else.

Potential abuse

“I don’t think it would be abused much. If there was evidence of this being abused after being introduced for a year or two, we obviously might have to introduce a system of vouched expenses or people putting in claims, but that would be pretty complicated because you’d have a situation where they’d have to claim for a bit of heat here, a meal there, on a very sporadic basis it would involve an awful lot of administration and paper work.

“That wouldn’t be the initial intention, but if there were any signs of people abusing it sure we’d have to make radical changes.

“If you see this just as some sort of child care scheme then you’d be wrong, or as some sort of competition. We would anticipate this moving in parallel with what Katherine Zappone is doing very well with child care measures.

“This would be an extra piece of recognition of people who are doing this voluntarily which isn’t even given a nod or a wink or an acceptance or a recognition by the State.

“To see this as some sort of rival for the child care subvention would be a misunderstanding, it would initially certainly be a reimbursement but it would be a recognition as well for the great service they’re doing.”

Mr Ross said it was highly insulting to suggest that grandparents aren’t deserving in any way, and that he would be prepared to look at suggestions to extend the scheme to other family members.

The estimated cost of the scheme is €70million, he said. “This is a start, something that could be extended it if it’s not too expensive.”

The Minister added that he did not see any reason why all four grandparents could not claim if all were involved in minding the children.

“What they are doing is so important, they’re allowing mothers and fathers go back to work, whether part time or full time and in that sense they’re doing the State a great service.”