Speaking at a Relationships Alliance event in London this week, David Cameron acknowledged that grandparents are currently getting a ‘raw deal’ when they become carers to their grandchildren.
He said he was considering making a pledge in the Conservative general election manifesto to give grandparents who become guardians to their grandchildren the same rights as adoptive parents. This would include paid leave and greater financial support.
From next year, adoptive parents will be entitled to nine months paid leave. The move, introduced under the new Children and Families Act, will bring adoptive parental leave in line with paid maternity leave.
In response to a question from Grandparents Plus chief executive, Sam Smethers, about bringing leave for grandparents in line with that given to adoptive parents, Mr Cameron said, ‘That is something I am very happy to look at in terms of manifesto, and we have got some Conservative MPs here who have got some responsibility for giving me ideas on that front, so I am sure they will take note of it.’
Speaking after the Prime Minister’s speech, Ms Smethers welcomed Mr Cameron’s acknowledgement of the help provided by ‘unsung heroes’.
She said, ‘This is a significant response by the Prime Minister and a very welcome acknowledgement of the parallel with adopters in terms of the need for support and entitlements. We will be following this up to turn this in to a concrete commitment for the manifesto and beyond, and working with all the political parties to secure real and lasting change for kinship carers and their families.’
The Prime Minister's commitment is a small victory for Grandparents Plus, which has continued to campaign for more support for grandparent carers.
An Ipsos Mori poll commissioned this year by the charity, along with Save the Children and the Family and Childcare Trust found that nearly two million grandparents give up their jobs or take time off work to provide care for their grandchildren.
Seven in ten grandparents who responded to the survey said that the financial, practical and caring contributions they make are not recognised, although the care they provide is worth over £7 billion.
Most local authorities do not automatically class grandparents who look after children as foster carers, so they are not currently entitled to the full range of benefits.