COMMENT: Universal payment not a good option

COMMENT: Universal payment not a good option

We'd all like to do more for the grandparents of the country. Few could argue with that.

However, paying them a €1,000 grant to look after their grandchildren is stretching credulity, to say the very least.

Yet that is the proposal emanating from Minister Shane Ross and the Independent Alliance.

This would amount to a totally new payment, with all the attendant administration and implementation complexities which these things entail.

And it would all cost money, and lots and lots of it.

Minister Ross is right in his assertion that grandparents deserve recognition. Again that is a point that few could argue with.

In an era when young families are under a multitude of pressures and both parents or one parent are often stretched to the limit working, grandparents often occupy a central and, more often than not, stabilising force.

For many young people rearing families, they are an indispensable safety net.

The reality is that many are minding children every working day, and everyone knows people in this scenario.

However, to introduce a universal payment, whilst undoubtedly popular with those who might stand to benefit from it, is not an answer this country needs in its quest to place a value the service that many of these people are providing.

The devil is very much in the detail here.

How much would such a scheme cost and, related directly to this, how many people would apply?

And how would a watchdog role be employed to ensure the set criteria for application was being observed, and that the system wasn't open to abuse.

This proposal looks like having all the possibility of turning into a free for all, the only problem being that it is hard to turn off the tap once it has been turned on.

There are surely better and more efficient ways to help families, perhaps providing more resources to childcare for example.

This hardly seems like one of them and it should be shelved.