Suffolk: Grandparents step in to fill childcare breach

WITH childcare costs locking mums out of the job market, many parents rely on their parents to lend a hand.

In the UK, 60% of all childcare provision is by grandparents.

Research by King’s College London, supported by the charity Grandparents Plus, shows that relying on grandparents can save the average family �1,868 in childcare costs each year.

A report from the insurer RIAS in May 2012 estimated that 5.8million grandparents currently look after their grandchildren regularly for an average of 10 hours a week; that’s 47% of the nation’s grandparents over 50. This amounts to saving nearly �11bn in childcare costs over a year.

As well as donating free childcare, nearly half these grandparents, RIAS announced, were also spending around �142 a month towards the children’s upbringing (an increase of 58% in the last year), and an average of �293 towards holiday costs per grandchild.

A spokesperson for Age UK Suffolk said: “As so many grandparents now provide care for grandchildren in Suffolk, it’s important that once again we recognise and celebrate the valuable contribution older people are making to society.

“There is often a special bond between a grandchild and their grandparent and we know that grandparents often enjoy having an active role in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

Most Read

“If grandparents’ caring responsibilities increase, families must ensure they are both happy with any arrangements made, ensuring that grandparents do not incur any unfair financial burdens, particularly in these tough economic times.”

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus, added: “Grandparents play a vital role in providing childcare and enabling parents to stay in work.

“The Government is expecting everyone to work longer - so grandparents, and especially grandmothers will find it increasingly difficult to balance work and caring for their grandchildren.”

GRANDPARENTS Sue and Liam McGrath make a 120-mile trip each week to watch their grandchildren.

The couple travel from their home in Redgrave, near Diss, to Ipswich every Monday and Tuesday to care for Matilda, two, and ten-month-old Florence.

“It’s a case of helping out where we can. We don’t really view it as a burden because we love our grandchildren, but we are happy to hand them back to mum and dad on a Tuesday evening,” said Mr McGrath. “We see it as an inheritance gift we can give to our daughter and son-in-law now - our time is like a financial gift.

“It would cost them nearly �600 a month to cover babycare for the girls, which wouldn’t make it worthwhile for our daughter to go to work. And we get to build a relationship with our grandchildren.”

Mrs McGrath added: “It was a little different when our daughter was young, mothers didn’t tend to return to work until the babies were at school, but nowadays families rely on both salaries.

“And it won’t last forever – before we know it the girls will be at school and we can enjoy our free time again.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter