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Grandparent grant a 'novel idea that can be thrashed out' - Ross

“We’re pursuing this as an idea, as a novel idea. We’re going to continue to push for it.”

TRANSPORT MINISTER SHANE Ross has said a proposal by the Independent Alliance that grandparents should get an annual payment of €1,000 if they help out with the childcare of their grandchildren can be thrashed out.

The group’s plan had attracted extensive criticism from opposition parties. Fianna Fáil dismissed it as “mere immature kite flying”, while Labour said it “smacks of desperation”.

However, speaking to reporters today, Ross offered a defence of the plan.

“We’re pursuing this as an idea, as a novel idea. We’re going to continue to push for it.

“It’s an idea that recognises the role that grandparents have played in childminding.”

Ross said that there was no pushback from his government colleagues on the plan, but was asked about concerns that the plan would cost more to administer than it would give to grandparents.

“There are lots of questions which are being asked. We brought this as a preliminary idea to Paschal Donohoe and it’s going to be costed by the Department of Finance and we’ll thrash it out from there. Certainly it’s something that can be adapted – of course it can.

“But at the moment, as an idea, as a concept, we think it’s something that will be very welcome by a large number of people.”

In an interview with today, Ross said every new idea floated “treads on some toes”, but he has got a lot of support for the plan so far, he added.

“Politically, I haven’t got too much resistance – Fianna Fáil have opposed it, but they oppose everything so that’s fine. Some of my colleagues think it is a very good idea, not all,” said the minister.

“I have seen quite a  lot of people say, ‘hey, why give to the grandmothers, we should get it, or what about stay at home mothers? Maybe. They should get acknowledged as well. Childcare is a massive problem that has to be dealt with.

“Some people take a simplistic view and say it should be subvented. Full stop. Throw money at it. But that is very long term, it would be hugely expensive. Of course we should subvent childcare,” said Ross.

He added that the grandparent grant is only part of the solution, adding that it is about recognising the role of grandparents caring for children and allowing people go out to work.

Some grandparents see childminding as a “daily chore” but he said many are making that sacrifice.

When asked how the department would go about enforcing the scheme and ensure grandparents who are not caring for children are not claiming the money, the minister said it would begin as as self-assessed.

“You can’t police every piece of social welfare, it would take a whole new department, a battalion to police it and that would be crazy. What you can do is spot checks,” said Ross, adding:

If we saw there was evidence of abuse we could take necessary measures.

We could, though it is not our preference, that it could be vouched – this is a reimbursement not a payment for the costs they have incurred, which would probably be a lot more than a €1,000 a year, so we could ask them to vouch for them, but the bureaucracy of that is pretty futile, but we could do it if it was abused.

The estimated cost of the scheme is €70 million and the minister earlier this week explained that it would run on a self-assessment basis, at least initially. He added that all four grandparents could claim the payment if they were involved in minding children.

The plan was floated by Ross two years ago, but Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said people who look after their grandchildren would be “insulted” by the idea of receiving payments from the State.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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