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Shane Ross defends proposal to give grandparents cash for helping out with childcare

The proposal attracted criticism Grandchild Expenses Reimbursement Scheme will be in the region of €1,000 per year.

Members of the Independent Alliance - John Halligan, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.
Members of the Independent Alliance - John Halligan, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Aug 1st 2018, 4:55 PM

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Shane Ross has defended 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.

Yesterday, members of the group met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe to discuss the forthcoming budget and the future of the coalition.

One of the issues discussed at the meeting was the introduction of 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”.

It is understood the self-assessed payment would be available to all grandparents who care for their grandchildren for more than 10 hours per week.

The proposal was met with extensive criticism from opposition parties. Fianna Fáil dismissed it as “mere immature kite flying”, while Labour said it “smacks of desperation”.

However, speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan show, minister Ross offered a robust defence of the scheme.

“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.

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.

The estimated cost of the scheme is €70 million and the minister 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.

State payment for grandparents 

The measure was previously floated by Transport Minister Shane Ross over two years ago, who called for the childcare benefits rolled out by government to be extended to grandparents who help out with childminding.

However, it was ultimately ruled out by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone who said  people who look after their grandchildren would be “insulted” by the idea of receiving payments from the State.

Other items on the Independent Alliance’s wish list ahead of Budget 2019 include:

  • An increase in gambling tax to fund addiction services.
  • The reinstatement of the bereavement grant of €850 to help with funeral costs
  • An increase in the tax-free thresholds for gift and inheritance tax

Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath also called for government to build on investment to disability services.

The Independent Alliance said the measures it is pursuing aim to protect the vulnerable in our society and offer “workable solutions to the legacies of the economic downturn in areas such as housing and health that still affect our country”.

As the group enters into the third Budget as part of the coalition, it said the government is now in a strong position to “share the rewards of our economic progress with the citizens of our country while taking steps to avoid a return to the destructive boom and bust policies of the past”.

It said members would now work with their government partners between now and Budget Day to deliver a “progressive, prudent and fair Budget”.

With additional reporting by Céimin Burke

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