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Grandparental care now worth £7.3 billion

Published on 29 May 2013 11:01 PM

Charities Age UK and Grandparents Plus have today launched new analysis revealing the informal childcare provided by grandparents is now worth £7.3 billion a year, up from £3.9 billion in 2004.


The analysis shows that both the number of children looked after by grandparents and the length of time that grandparents spend on childcare are rising.

Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 the number of children receiving informal childcare from their grandparents went up from 1.3 million to 1.6 million (from 11.7% to 14.3% of all children under 14). The total number of child-hours of childcare provided by grandparents over the year also rose from 1.3 billion to 1.7 billion, a 35% increase.

The analysis has been conducted for the two charities by Age UK Chief Economist Prof José Iparraguirre and Sarah Wellard, Director of Policy, Research and Communications at Grandparents Plus, drawing on data from the national Understanding Society Survey, which includes information on childcare usage by over 11,000 children. The analysis is included in a new briefing paper that has been produced by Grandparents Plus and published today.

Grandparents are 'throwing a life line to struggling families'

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus commented, 'Grandparents are throwing a life line to families squeezed by falling real incomes and rising childcare costs. The contribution they are making within their families and the wider economy is enormous and rising.'

Caroline Abrahams, Director of External Affairs at Age UK said, 'Grandparents are such an important part of children's lives and are, it would seem, playing an increasing role in providing an affordable way for parents to continue working.

'As the state pension age rises, it may become increasingly difficult for grandparents to continue providing such invaluable support, which is why Age UK would like to see everyone being able to request flexible working arrangements from their employers.'

'As a parent that's what you do, don't you?'

The research showed that 1 in 4 working families depends on grandparents for childcare, and that half of all mothers rely on grandparents to provide childcare when they return to work after maternity leave.

Nearly 2 in 3 (63%) grandparents with a grandchild under 16 look after their grandchildren, and 1 in 5 (19%) grandmothers provide at least 10 hours of childcare a week.

As working grandmother Josune Arzalluz explains, it's what comes naturally. She said, 'You see your children stuck so you just want to give them a hand, as a parent that's what you do, don't you? I went part-time at work because my daughter asked me to. I thought it wasn't fair on the child to be at nursery 10 hours a day, five days a week, he was too small for that.'

Sam Smethers commented, 'Research shows that grandparents providing childcare tend to be grandmothers who are younger, fitter and healthier, but no longer working.  They are the very women who are being expected to remain longer in work to pay for healthcare and pensions in older age. The risk is of an emerging childcare gap, as grandmothers stay in paid work and are no longer available to provide care, with mothers leaving the labour market as a result.

The Government must tackle the childcare gap

This is why Grandparents Plus are calling on the government to increase the availability of affordable childcare and to make it easier for those with caring responsibilities to work flexibly.

Smethers continued: 'The Government needs to respond by increasing the affordability and availability of formal childcare, and making it easier for grandparents to combine work and caring responsibilities. We need more flexible working and greater flexibility in the way parental leave can be used, for example making it transferable to a grandparent.

'A useful first step would be to make emergency leave when children are ill or schools are closed available for grandparents.'

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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