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Should grandparents be paid to look after their grandkids?

Sounds sensible enough, doesn’t it?

A scheme to pay grandparents to care for their grandchildren. A good solid plan to compensate all those Grannies and Grandads who gave away their dream of caravanning around Australian to focus on teaching Maddison and Charlie how to count to 10.

The proposal, floated over the weekend by Independent senator Glenn Lazarus and Jackie Lambie, involved a payment whereby grandparents would be financially rewarded for looking after the children of working parents as part of a Senate crossbench wish-list in exchange for supporting the government’s $3.5 billion families package for families with incomes between $65,000 and $170,000 per year.

The proposal involved a payment whereby grandparents would be financially rewarded for looking after their grandkids.

The idea in theory sounds like a great idea. After all we are desperately in need of childcare in Australia and anything that increases female participation in the workforce is a bonus. Right?

As with these things upon first hearing of the proposal many questions were raised.

How would such a scheme be paid for?

What form would the payments take?

And mostly shouldn’t grandparents be looking after their snotty-nosed little tackers for the love of it?

Talk back radio today lit up with the idea with most callers outraged about how “in their day” they just made do. That “in their day” grandparents did it “out of love.” And that in “their day” mothers stayed home to look after their own kids themselves.

“Don’t have kids if you can’t afford them” was the general predictable rabble.

Comments on social media like this one summed it up:

If we lived within our means, like our grandparents did there would be no need for all these handouts. There was only Family Allowance ($30 a fortnight) when I had my two girls. No baby bonus, no family Tax Benefit A and B, no back to school allowance, no child care allowance, no maternity paid leave (in most cases you had to just LEAVE your job) and although we didn’t have a mansion for a house, tv’s, iPhones, iPads, xboxes, kids laptops and two nice cars, no annual family vacation overseas we did ok!!!!!

Haven’t we heard it before? It’s the same old argument put forth whenever any type of welfare change is suggested.

In our day we made just made do. Young people today.

(Insert eye rolling and a few tuts.)

The fact is that things have changed rapidly since “their day.”

Australian Institute of Families studies figures show how in the early 1980s about four in 10 mothers were employed, compared that to more than 6 in 10 in 2011, and that number increasing.

Each and every one of these families needs to find a way to care for their children around their work responsibilities.

The majority of informal care in Australia is provided by one group of people: the Grey Army.

The majority of informal care in Australia is provided by one group of people.

Shall we call them the Grey Army? Although would that be slightly offensive to my fit and stylish blonde mother who steps up several times a week to do her bit for her six grandkids.

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She is just one of the millions of grandparents who fill this role on a daily basis with almost 40 per cent of babies aged 0-2 cared for by grandparents while their parents work.

Most working families use a hodge podge, complicated patchwork of formal and informal care for their children. Grandparents step in when needed to be available. Some care for their younger grandchildren several days a week, others take care of the school run and afternoon bedlam as they ferry children to and from activity and play dates.

So why not compensate them? Why not pay the grandparent the equivalent of what is being subsidised through the childcare rebate already, thus freeing up childcare spaces.

What if instead of the childcare rebate you are paid by the government – (currently up to $7,500 a year) it goes to Nan and Pa to pay for all those entry fees to play centres they cough up for?

Doesn’t that sound sensible?

The idea of financially compensating grandparents for looking after their grandkids already works in some forms in other countries.

Other even more sensible types have suggested the Newstart allowance be extended to compensate. Currently the Newstart allowance is paid to over 55’s who do 30 hours per week of voluntary work, paid work or a combination of the two.

Some are suggesting that childcare could fall under voluntary work, thus allowing Nana and Poppa to access the Newstart allowance as compensation for pushing Oliver and Lucy on the swing every Monday morning before shuffling them off to playgroup.

What would they be getting for their hard work?  $258 a week.

Just as sensible.

In fact the idea of financially compensating grandparents for looking after their grandkids already works in some forms in other countries.

The Treasurer rejected the idea.

In the UK for example grandparents who are providing childcare do not lose out on their basic state pension, through a scheme where they can apply for credits, called ‘Specified Adult Childcare Credits’ are for anyone who is providing care for a young relative under the age of 12 in order to enable a parent to work.

Sadly the Treasurer, Scott Morrison doesn’t like common sense and today – just as each and every Granny and Grandpops out there was finally feeling recognised for their work  – he put the kybosh on this plan. He told 2GB radio if it’s already being done for free why should the government cough up the cash?

“For those who are doing the normal thing like my parents do and a lot of peoples’ parents do then, no, the government isn’t considering that.”

Shame Mr Morrison – sounded very sensible to me.

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