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Grans save grands for hardworking parents

16th November 2010 Print

The UK's grandparents have dramatically increased their childcare duties over the last year, saving parents over £12.5 billion annually in childcare costs. This has increased by £7 billion on last year, according to a new research study. 

Over 7.5 million grandparents look after their grandchildren on a regular basis, according to the annual study by over 50s insurance provider RIAS. On average, grandparents spend over 9 hours every week providing childcare for their grandchildren, saving families up to £1,650 a year in childcare costs - almost £800 more than last year.  The amount of time they spend giving care has almost doubled from an average of 5 hours a week in 2009. Almost all of grandparents (98%) receive no formal payment for their time. 

The ‘21st Century Grandparenting' report, now in its second year, shows a substantial increase in grandparents stepping in to provide vital childcare support as families are confronted by an uncertain financial climate, particularly in light of the recent Government spending cuts announced in October. Not only are families with children seen as the ‘biggest losers' as a result of these cuts, grandparents may also bear the financial brunt as so many of them also regularly contribute towards their grandchildrens' living costs, often at a huge monthly commitment. 

Janet Connor, Managing Director at RIAS, comments: "Over the last year we've seen a staggering increase in the amount of help grandparents are giving - with one third of grandparents agreeing that they have personally had to increase the amount of childcare they provide over the last 12 months. We know that this could be due to parents having to return to work to ease financial pressures, as well as many parents having to work longer hours. And it's likely that this trend will continue if the child benefit policy changes are upheld. From holiday childcare to ad-hoc favours like picking up children from school or looking after them when they're ill, today's grandparents are saving families time and money, as well as making life easier." 

Parents feeling the pressure

Almost 2.5m grandparents (33%) say the amount of childcare they have provided in the last six months has significantly increased over the last 12 months.  Official figures have recently revealed that around 50,000 stay at home mothers have been forced back to work because of the recession in the past year - very likely having a knock on effect on the number of grandparents drafted in to provide care. 

Generous with care and cash

Four out of ten (41%) grandparents regularly contribute financially towards their grandchildren, with an average monthly bill of £90, equivalent to 8% of their monthly income, and an eye-watering £1,074 each year. This includes a contribution of £298 a year to fund one off ‘large' purchases, as well as £184 towards holidays each year on average. 

And while many grandparents happily give up their time and say looking after children makes them feel younger, almost one third (29%) admit they have had to put a holiday or leisure activity on hold due to their childcare duties. 

Well-known broadcaster and grandparent, Janet Ellis, comments: "Being a grandparent is a very special role, and I'm able to really enjoy my grandkids without all the pressures of doing the hard bit - the parenting.   I know it's nice for Sophie to know that she can count on me if she needs a break from being mum, but I hope it's nice for the children, too, to have me around to provide some extra love and support as they grow older.   And fortunately I'm still young enough to have the energy to really enjoy looking after them!" 

Today's generous, doting grandparents

Welsh grandparents provide the most amount of childcare and contribute more financially to the upbringing of their grandchildren than any other region in the UK.  By spending just over 13 hours each week looking after their grandchildren Welsh grandparents are saving their families an average of £2,175 a year in childcare costs, and their generosity continues to the tune of £1,312 each year in financial support -  a bumper yearly saving of  £3,487. 

Janet Connor continues: "The recent announcement that the Government is planning to introduce a Grandparents' Credit if they have to give up work to care for grandchildren is a reassuring step in the right direction.  Both grandparents and grandchildren benefit enormously from spending more time with each other but it's important to consider how these demands can impact on grandparents' lives in a practical sense."  

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