Increasing participation by parents in the workforce should not depend on abuse of the elderly, Fine Gael Senator Cáit Keane said.
She told the Seanad that grandparents were being used to mind children because of the high cost of childcare.
“Grandparents do the work very willingly, but they do not want to do it 24 hours per day,’’ Ms Keane added. She said they were doing the work of volunteers.
She said investing in childcare would save money in the long run.
“It is a false economy to put in a few bob here and there in the short term, although it might be politically advantageous,’’ she said.
“For the country as a whole and the outcomes, it would be better to do it right.’’
Ms Keane, who was speaking during a Seanad debate on early childcare, said those involved were self-employed and should be helped in the same way as any other business.
She suggested funding for the sector should be provided through Enterprise Ireland.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly said his department was considering ways to improve investment in early childhood care and education.
It was largely driven by the work of the interdepartmental group on future investment in early years and school-age care and education, he added.
He told Senators that the group was tasked with developing a series of options for future investment and was required to make its report to the Government next month.
“To help the group develop the strongest set of options, its work is informed by research and evidence of best practice, as well as current policy commitments,’’ Dr Reilly added.