Childcare and the ‘granny grant’

 

Sir, – Shane Ross’s proposal (News, August 1st) for a grandparent childcare payment of €1,000 per annum is bizarre. We have had several cases in recent years of au pairs going to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to argue successfully that childcare, even if informally arranged, constitutes work and thus employment, with all of the attendant employer responsibilities and employee rights.

Childcare is a regulated sector and carers and care locations are subject to, among other things, Garda checks and minimum standards for health and safety. Having grandparents (or aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, neighbours, etc) formally register and declare how much childcare they have informally provided opens the door for subsequent claims to the WRC for a minimum wage, etc, should relations between parents and carers subsequently break down, and perhaps for Revenue to pursue children’s parents for income tax on the “benefit-in-kind” they have received in respect of services provided below the market value, and unpaid employer PRSI. For obvious reasons governments, regulators and Revenue have long avoid interfering in this area, as recognising that work was being done would oblige the relevant authorities to ensure the laws in this area were being obeyed.

Leaving aside the legalities, Mr Ross’s proposal would create the unfair situation in which four grandparents sharing childcare would all be entitled to €1,000 each, while a single grandparent doing all the childcare on their own would be entitled to just €1,000. Where no grandchildren are involved and the parents or other relatives provide all of the care, they would get no payment at all. The lack of proportionality in the proposal, and of any financial recognition of the work that parents and other relatives do, are glaring and are perhaps more reflective of Mr Ross reaching out to target voters in his aging constituency than of any genuine intent. Silly season is indeed upon us. – Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Sir, – As a grandparent, I am wildly excited by the thought of receiving from the Government a maximum of €2 per hour (before tax) for minding my grandchildren! What largesse! – Yours, etc,

MARGARET FARRELL

Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Sir, – If only we, as taxpayers, could get a €1,000 grant for every new Government proposal made. – Yours, etc,

DULACH GLYNN,

Raheny,

Dublin 5.

Sir, – I have noted with interest a recent public debate on a proposal to support child-minding grandparents with a State-funded allowance of €1,000 per annum, roughly €20 weekly. Over 100,000 people with disabilities live on means-tested income supports. Poverty levels are increasing among them.

The Oireachtas Disability Group, along with the Disability Federation of Ireland, and others, have called for the forthcoming budget to make a starter payment of €20 per week to begin to turn around this unacceptable level of poverty.

These people badly need this additional and entirely justifiable allowance in the forthcoming budget, and I will be urging the Government and Minister for Finance to do just that. – Yours, etc,

Senator JOHN DOLAN,

Chief Executive Officer ,

Disability Federation

of Ireland,

Fumbally Court.

Fumbally Lane,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – The controversy about the ill-advised so-called “granny grant” has been worrying. Although the public at large, thankfully, is not buying the concept, the impression has once again been given that cash payments to families will help address our current childcare challenges.

Hard-pressed parents will not want to hear this, but the fact is that investment in early years here has been so low historically that what is needed more than anything is a focus on strengthening quality provision for babies, children and their families. This will of course allow, in time, improved affordability.

Direct cash payments or tax credits will not help to develop or consolidate excellent early years care and education. Nor will they help to attract or retain a professional workforce, which is the most significant indicator of quality. Finally, such interventions will discriminate against low-income families.

Early Childhood Ireland expects the forthcoming and long-awaited Babies, Young Children and Families strategy, to set out a multiannual plan to address the impact of the under-investment and bring Ireland to the top of the international child well-being and care leagues in which we currently lag.

We also assume all members of the Government will endorse this evidence-based strategy fully, and will agree to bring an end to other unhelpful and unworkable proposals.

If ever there was an issue that requires collective Cabinet responsibility, I would respectfully suggest that the care of our youngest citizens is it. – Yours, etc,

TERESA HEENEY,

Chief Executive.

Early Childhood Ireland,

Hainault House,

Belgard Square South,

Tallaght,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – The proposal of a payment of a “granny grant” to elderly carers of children is one insult too many.

The elderly have already done their bit for the State. Must they now be obliged to aid their overgrown offspring with free childcare services?

Why should the social burdens caused by patriarchal housing and social polices be borne by those who have always lived within their means?

We need another grey pride revolt! – Yours, etc,

Dr FLORENCE CRAVEN,

Bracknagh,

Co Offaly.