Halfway through our stay back home and the results of being around extended family are evident. The kids go to mass with Granny, tend the garden with Grandad, go with aunty Claire to the Pet Farm with Uncle Sean to the match and so on, over the course of the summer their circle triples in size, it’s the reason expats in Qatar make it back to their home countries every summer if they can, to give their children an experience of life in their country of origin and enjoy the benefits of being surrounded by extended family.
Apart from Pat the Baker bread, Supervalu coleslaw and Tayto, grandparents are single biggest thing we miss in the middle east and the only thing you can’t stuff into a suitcase and take with you. In Qatar we have do without, we make friends with people similar to ourselves and create a circle that way, but its not the same, no mass with granny no garden with grandad and no mayhem in the sitting room when Limerick buried Cork in the semi-final.
Needing granny for childminding is not a problem in Qatar because there’s half of Sri Lanka and the Philippines there to take her place and while there are thousands of gifted, natural and caring childminders in Qatar, there are none to take the place of Granny, why? Because granny does it for love, not QR 30 an hour. The upshot is, Granny is priceless. Or so I thought until Shane Ross, threw a price on her, Eu. 19 a week to be exact.
Of all the half-baked ideas, the granny grant must be the one that takes the biscuit. One thousand euros to be handed out to each of the four grandparents, if they look after the grand-children, and likely to be extended to aunties and uncles who care for their nieces and nephews for a up to 10 hours a week. In my case, I could clock up seven or eight one thousand-euro pay-outs. Two hours a day with each of the grandparents. A couple of 10 hour sleep over with the cousins and before you know it the government will be writing cheques to all my family for minding my kids and with the money, they’d all go to Tenerife for a week’s holiday and they’d treat me too, as I was the one that gave them the opportunity to earn the 19euro per week. But we’ve been told that this grant is neither going to be policed or monitored because it will not be abused. I think that statement was the best of all. And I would like that statement re-visited when long lost grannies and grandads start emerging from the woodwork and claiming their granny grants ahead perhaps of the worthier granny and grandads that refuse to claim because they don’t want a fee attached to their nurturing nature.
Apart from the flimsy nature of the grant, which is estimated to be at a significant cost to the state, how does a band-aid payment like this contribute to the structure and progression of childcare in Ireland, nothing that what it does. It neither secures satisfactory standards for childminding nor adequate compensation for the childminder, so it’s basically a token, a quick fix, a long finger but one day what will be at the end of long finger will come and when it does, Shane Ross will have a nice big register of people receiving the payment, who are looking for an increase. And this initial honorary acceptance system will have caused a massive problem where those already qualified for the payment will face a re-qualification procedure which will in turn cost the state and again, not only not benefit childcare practices in the country but will have created yet another loophole where children are open to exploitation from being in sub-standard childminding arrangements.
Regulation that’s what’s needed in childcare in a country that has recently reported over 56,000 cases of child abuse in a three-year span, not another loophole which makes our children attractive cash cows and ultimately more vulnerable.
Nineteen Euros a week…………. we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.