€1,000 ‘Granny Grant’ a to­ken ges­ture mask­ing a real prob­lem

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - David.looby@peo­ple­news.ie

SILLY sea­son ar­rived with the force of a shark bite off the eastern se­aboard last week. Na­tional broad­cast­ing in­sti­tu­tion Dave Fan­ning, who can al­ways be re­lied on for some in­ter­est­ing tit­bit of brow rais­ing news from around the world, was even re­duced to de­vot­ing a seg­ment to how to make the per­fect cup of tea.

Among his lesser broad­cast­ing mor­tals, the ‘news’ was even grim­mer. Pop­u­lar pet names, whole seg­ments on trees, where to get the best chips in Ire­land, hinted at a wider malaise in Irish so­ci­ety, and in the broad­cast me­dia news­rooms in par­tic­u­lar.

The end­less sum­mer of 2018 was ex­haust­ing the imag­i­na­tive pow­ers of hard pressed me­dia teams and con­tent find­ers across the coun­try.

Then, on Wed­nes­day, the air­waves ig­nited when a call was made for grand­par­ents to be given €1,000 a year for mind­ing their grand­chil­dren.

The fig­ure, plucked from mid-air at best, is­sued from the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance like a geyser in the desert.

The call to arms for grand­par­ents across the coun­try who de­vote their re­tire­ment days to mind­ing Johnny ‘Bored’ and ‘Tetchy’ Tammy had the ef­fect of open­ing up a fes­ter­ing wound in the na­tional psy­che.

I know I’m re­peat­ing my­self here, but mind­ing a child is a huge un­der­tak­ing and child­min­ders de­serve to be well paid for the task. All the bums and noses hat need clean­ing, cuts that need tend­ing to, tantrums that need calm­ing, not to men­tion the need to en­ter­tain end­lessly, is a huge chore. In most homes both par­ents have to work so there is no avoid­ing child­mind­ing. The very lucky have a grand­mother nearby who will of­fer to step in and help out, or be guilt tripped into do­ing same.

The cost of child­care varies from the man­age­able to the in­cred­i­ble, (some par­ents I know pay €2,500 a month for three chil­dren to be minded in Dublin and that’s not even full-time). Un­der the In­de­pen­dent TDs plans the self-as­sessed pay­ment of €1,000 would be avail­able to all grand­par­ents who care for their grand­chil­dren for more than ten hours per week.

In their first ne­go­ti­a­tions with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe ahead of the Bud­get, Shane Ross’s In­de­pen­dent Al­liance, which props up the Fine Gael-lead Govern­ment, called for its in­tro­duc­tion. Grand­par­ents would ap­ply for the pay­ment through the De­part­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion - but would not be re­quired to pro­vide vouched ex­penses to re­ceive the State cash.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Shane Ross said the scheme would give ‘se­ri­ous recog­ni­tion’ of the im­por­tant child­care role that grand­par­ents play.

There is no deny­ing this, but its ap­pli­ca­tion re­mains open for de­bate. Will it be like Chil­dren’s Al­lowance, which is paid to the rich of the coun­try and is not means tested.

In­stead of of­fer­ing a to­ken pay­ment to grand­par­ents, and in do­ing so, per­pet­u­at­ing the prac­tise, the Al­liance could have ad­vanced plans to help de­velop a func­tion­ing child­care sys­tem within the coun­try whereby par­ents are given tax cred­its for send­ing their chil­dren to creches, Montes­soris and af­ter school clubs. Mr Dono­hoe has com­mit­ted to cost­ing the pro­posal be­fore his next meet­ing with the Al­liance. Mr Ross said he would be ‘bang­ing down’ the Fi­nance Min­is­ter’s door over his pro­posal in the com­ing weeks. See­ing as he has been cham­pi­oning this pay­ment for three years, par­ents read­ing this should be ad­vised to con­tinue keep­ing their par­ents sweet!

Grannies AND Grandads could be €1,000 bet­ter off un­der new plans

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