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Grandparent care equivalent to £17.3bn in child benefit

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The UK has seen a 49 per cent increase in the number of grandparents providing childcare over the last five years, with 9.1 million now taking care of their grandchildren in some capacity, the RIAS ‘21st Century Grandparenting’ Report

Two thirds of grandparents now take care of their grandchildren for an average of 9.1 hours a week – up 11 per cent on last year and 72 per cent on 2009’s figures. This saves their children an average £1902 a year in child care costs, adding up to an annual nationwide saving or unofficial ‘child benefit’ of £17.3 billion.

Grandparents collectively spend £9bn – or £88 a month – regularly providing financial contributions towards toys, clothing, pocket money, savings, hobbies and leisure activities. This financial commitment is unaffordable for some, with 22% of grandparent childminders admitting they are forced to dip into savings and 5 per cent slipping into overdrafts.

Grandparents in the North West are the most likely to provide childcare with 74 per cent looking after their grandchildren – they also put the most hours in averaging 12 hours per week. Those in the South East are less likely to care for their grandchildren but it’s still high with over half (57 per cent) taking on the role. Scottish grandparents it seems are spending the most on activities for their grandchildren per month with an average of £40.

Peter Corfield, Managing Director at RIAS, said: “As parents feel the pressures of everyday life, from increasing work commitments to rising childcare costs, it’s getting ever more important to have grandparents on hand to help out. Grandparents not only continue to play a vital life line for UK families, but also bring knowledge and experience that benefits generations. However they are not only contributing their time but often their savings too. For those who rely only on a state pension, it can be up to 18 per cent of their annual income on activities and costs of looking after the grandchildren, meaning they not only make an enormous and selfless contribution in terms of time, energy and experience but financially too”.

Cherry Reynard is acting editor of

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