Department of Children pours cold water on ’granny grant’ proposals

Katherine Zappone ‘focused’ on increased childcare investment in budget

Minister for Children and Katherine Zappone. Proposals to pay grandparents who help with childcare do  not fall within the Minister’s remit, a spokesman said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children and Katherine Zappone. Proposals to pay grandparents who help with childcare do not fall within the Minister’s remit, a spokesman said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Department of Children has poured cold water on proposals that grandparents who help with childcare should receive a €1,000 annual payment, dubbed a “granny grant”.

“The Minister is firmly focused on childcare and increasing investment as she has done in the last two budgets,” a spokesman for Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said.

The Independent Alliance released details of the proposals after a budget negotiation meeting earlier this week with Minister for Public Enterprise and Reform Paschal Donohoe.

“What’s suggested does not fall within her remit,” the Minister’s spokesman said.

Current investment in childcare, including infrastructure, is up to €485 million this year but the Minister has said: “We are still significantly short of the European average and Irish families are still struggling to meet the cost of childcare.”

The alliance’s grant would be based on self-assessment and would be available to all grandparents looking after their grandchildren for more than 10 hours a week.

‘Valuable contribution’

Independent Alliance Ministers described the initiative as a “grandparent and grandchild expenses reimbursement scheme to recognise the valuable economic and social contribution which grandparents make in helping with their grandchildren in order to enable a parent of those children to work”.

The grandparents would not have to provide evidence of expenses incurred, but would self-assess, initially at least, to see how the scheme worked and all four grandparents of a child could apply.

An analysis conducted by the group, which is in coalition with Fine Gael and other Independent Ministers, estimated that some 70,000 grandparents may be eligible, resulting in an overall grant scheme costing €70 million annually.

Currently a childcare subvention scheme introduced by the Minister is in place, but legislation giving parents a clear legal entitlement to financial support for childcare was passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

Reaction to the granny grant among community organisations has been mixed.

Frances Byrne from Early Childhood Ireland said cash payments were “not the answer”.

“We need very serious, evidence-based investment and a cash payment to grandparents is not that,” said Ms Byrne.

Peter Kavanagh, head of public affairs at Active Retirement Ireland, said while it was nice that the Independent Alliance was acknowledging care by grandparents, they would be better served to deal with the root problems that lead to childcare being so expensive.