Millions of grandparents giving up work to care for grandchildren

Nearly two million grandparents have given up their jobs or taken time off work to look after their grandchildren, finds new research.

The Ipsos Mori Poll commissioned by charities Grandparents Plus, Save the Children and the Family and Childcare Trust, reveals that grandparents are increasingly stepping in to care for grandchildren because of work pressures and the rise in the cost of childcare.

A sample of 2,044 adults from Britain were interviewed for the poll, and of these 617 described themselves as grandparents or great-grandparents.

Around 1.9 million grandparents said that they have cut working hours, given up a job or taken time off in annual or sick leave to care for a grandchild at some point in their lives.

The reason most grandparents gave for looking after their grandchildren was to enable a child’s parents to work or because they could not afford childcare.

The poll also found that those providing the most care for their grandchildren are more likely to provide financial support.

Almost 30 per cent who provide over ten hours per week of childcare had given over £1,000 to their grandchildren in the past year.

Despite this, seven in ten grandparents said that the financial, practical and caring contributions they make is not recognised.

Grandparents Plus says this needs to change and has published a new report, ‘Time to Care’, with recommendations to provide more support to grandparents who look after their grandchildren, and enable them to combine work and care.

The report calls for a period of grandparental leave to be introduced that can be taken flexibly, and for flexible working to become the ‘norm’ in the workplace.

For grandparents and family members who have stepped in to the parenting role, Grandparents Plus recommends a duty on local authorities be introduced to consider the wider family first before children are taken into care, and that support is based on need not legal status.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said,‘ Grandparents are a hidden army of carers giving a lifeline to parents who need to get back to work and who often cannot afford childcare. They need our recognition and support.

‘This is generation generosity in action. In addition to the care they provide, grandparents are making huge financial contributions to support their grandchildren.

‘We need to re-think working requirements for the ageing population, who are being expected to work longer and care more for grandchildren. This simply isn’t sustainable.’

Will Higham, director of UK poverty at Save the Children, said, ‘The failure of all parties to tackle the cost of childcare has conscripted a gran and granddads’ army to pick up the pieces. The reality is that many parents struggling on a low-income are being priced out of using formal childcare and have no option but to give up work, or rely on friends and family.’

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