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Published on 29 September 2017 09:00 AM

More than a third (34 per cent)[i] of Scottish grandparents over the age of 50 – around 370,000[ii] – have provided regular childcare for their grandchildren, according to new research.

Age Scotland today revealed the extent that working parents rely on an older generation, ahead of Grandparents’ Day on Sunday (OCT 1). Two thirds of grandparents (67 per cent) who provide care say it enables their children to work more, while 59 per cent believe their children would have to give up a job or cut down hours without them.

The vast majority of grandparents who provide regular care (96 per cent) do so at least once a week, with 15 per cent looking after their grandchildren at least once a day. Almost one in 10 grandparents has given up work or reduced their hours to help with childcare.

The report, by Age Scotland’s sister charity Age UK, highlights the unique relationship between older and younger generations, and demonstrates the wide-ranging benefits of keeping them connected. Ninety-three per cent of Scottish grandparents say they are close to their grandchildren, with around a third of those playing the role of confidant for grandchildren with worries or problems.

While 30 per cent of grandparents say they are often asked for advice and practical tips such as recipes and how to mend things, the exchange of information goes both ways. One in five said their grandchildren also provide practical help such as support with technology if they need it.

Although 88 per cent of “granddad and granny nannies” receive no financial compensation, most say they receive huge benefits from spending more time with their grandchildren. The top two were enjoying spending time with grandchildren (86 per cent) and seeing more of their family (77 per cent).  Six in ten said it helps them stay physically and mentally active, 41 per cent said it gave them a sense of purpose, and 18 per cent admitting it stopped them from feeling lonely. More than a quarter said they would like to spend more time with their grandchildren.

However many grandparents who are under State Pension age are not aware that they are entitled to claim National Insurance credits while providing regular childcare for family members aged under 12.  These can top up their state pension by filling gaps in their National Insurance record.

Age Scotland’s Charity Director, Keith Robson, said: "More and more working parents depend on Granny or Granddad for regular childcare or to help in emergencies, with many grandparents even cutting down their own working hours to help out.

“With so many playing a pivotal role in caring for grandchildren, it’s no surprise this results in close and lasting bonds between the generations. Children know they can turn to their grandparents for help and advice or to share their problems. At the same time, older people enjoy being involved in their grandchildren’s lives, watching them grow up, and staying physically and mentally active.

“This Grandparents’ Day is a perfect opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contribution of these very special people. We’d also encourage families to take advantage of all the benefits available, such as National Insurance credits for grandparents who are under State Pension Age.”

For more information and advice, people can contact the Charity’s free helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

[i] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc for Age UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th - 31st August 2017. 

[ii] There is an estimated total of 12.5 million grandparents in the UK over the age of 50, and 1.09 million in Scotland (page 3). 34 per cent of that figure is 370,600. Calculation done by Age Scotland, using YouGov data.