Nearly seven million grandparents provide regular childcare

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Nearly seven million grandparents provide regular childcare for their grandchildren aged under 16, with the most popular reason being to allow the child’s parents to work, according to a new poll released today (Tuesday) by the TUC.

The YouGov poll –  published as part of the TUC’s Age Immaterial investigation into women over 50 in the workplace – shows that nearly three in five (58 per cent) grandparents provide regular childcare without the child’s parent or parents  present, equivalent to nearly seven million grandparents across Britain.

The most popular reason grandparents gave for looking after their grandchildren, cited by 50 per cent, was to allow the child’s parents to work. This was the reason also given by 45 per cent of mums and dads with children under 16 who are looked after by their grandparents.

The informal care provided by millions of grandparents is saving working families thousands of pounds a year on costly nursery and childminding fees, as well as helping parents to stay in work and continue their careers, says the TUC.

The polling also shows that working grandparents are more likely (63 per cent) to look after their grandchildren than retired grandparents (55 per cent). While grandparents have always played an important role in looking after their grandchildren, the record number of people now working into their late 60s means that many are taking on childcare responsibilities for a second time while they are still working, says the TUC.

With the average weekly wage higher for people in their 30s (£468) than for those their 50s (£427.80) and 60s (£320.90), some families may feel it makes financial sense for a grandparent to reduce their hours and provide informal care, rather than or in addition to a parent in order to ease the pressure on childcare bills, says the TUC.

But while the childcare provided by grandparents is hugely important, the TUC believes that this function is often not recognised or understood by employers. Of working grandparents who have never taken time off work to care for grandchildren under 16, around one in ten have not been able to do so because they have either been refused time off by their employer (3 per cent), or simply felt that they weren’t able to ask (8 per cent).

Although many working grandparents play a key role in the care of their grandchildren, they are currently only entitled to take short periods of unpaid leave in an emergency. The TUC wants grandparents to have greater entitlement to unpaid leave so they can combine looking after their grandchildren with their jobs.

A new right to unpaid leave enjoys considerable support from both grandparents – 42 per cent support the policy, just 26 per cent oppose – and parents (50 per cent support, 21 per cent oppose). And the government has an opportunity to introduce unpaid leave for grandparents as the Children and Families Bill reaches its report stage in the House of Lords later today.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The informal childcare that millions of grandparents regularly provide is one of the most important and unheralded forms of care in Britain today.

“The childcare provided by grandparents allows mums and dads to work, saves them money on nursery and childminder fees, and creates a special bond across different generations in a family.

“But with more people than ever before working into their late 60s, millions of grandparents are selflessly taking on childcare responsibilities for a second time while they still work. Many businesses have yet to keep up with this trend and thousands of grandparents who want to look after their grandkids are prevented from doing so.

“It’s important that public policy catches up with the needs of working grandparents and their families. A new right to unpaid leave would be a great way to get more working grandparents involved in childcare, and at very little cost to an employer.”

Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus Sam Smethers said: “Family life is changing and it’s time that government and employers caught up.

“Grandparents are picking up the strain that families are under and providing an increasing amount of childcare. But they are under pressure themselves, working longer and struggling to combine paid work with caring.

“We risk a ‘childcare gap’ emerging – with parents paying the price – if grandparents cannot afford to reduce their hours or can’t get the flexibility they need.  The solution is a period of grandparental leave and an investment in formal childcare.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- All fieldwork, unless otherwise stated, is from YouGov. Grandparents: total sample size was 4,001 adults, of which 981 have grandchildren aged under 16. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25 October and 1 November 2013. Parents: total sample size was 4,147 adults, of which 835 have children aged under 16. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1 and 4 November 2013. Both surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

- The full polling results are available from the TUC press office.

-  The total number of grandparents caring for children under 16 has been calculated through TUC analysis of the YouGov data – 24.5 per cent of adults in Great Britain (according to the Office for National Statistics, the adult population of Great Britain is 48,788,716) have grandchildren under 16. Of these 58 per cent provide care for their grandchildren without the child’s parents present.

- The average weekly pay figures cited are from the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2013 www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ashe/annual-survey-of-hours-and-earnings/2013-provisional-results/stb-ashe-statistical-bulletin-2013.html

Selected YouGov questions and responses

Approximately, how many hours, if any, during an average week do you spend looking after (i.e. caring/taking responsibility for) your grandchildren without any of the child's parents present?

Base: All GB adults who have grandchildren aged under 16

 

Total

Male

Female

All workers (NET)

Retired

Unemployed

Not working/ other

0 hours – I never look after any of my grandchildren without any parent present

37%

39%

36%

33%

41%

40%

28%

Up to 7 hours a week

34%

36%

32%

37%

33%

39%

27%

More than 7, up to 14 hours a week

12%

13%

12%

13%

12%

15%

17%

More than 14, up to 21 hours a week

7%

8%

7%

7%

7%

3%

13%

More than 21, up to 35 hours a week

3%

2%

4%

5%

2%

-

3%

More than 35 hours a week

2%

1%

2%

2%

1%

-

3%

Don’t know

5%

2%

7%

5%

4%

3%

8%

Which, if any, of the following are reasons why you ever care for your grandchild(ren) without their parent(s) present? (Please tick all that apply)

Base: All GB adults who look after their grandchildren aged under 16 without their parent(s) present

 

Total

Male

Female

All workers (NET)

Retired

Unemployed

Not working/ other

To allow their parent(s) to work

50%

48%

51%

42%

58%

67%

40%

To allow their parent(s) to work during school holidays

24%

23%

24%

17%

28%

61%

25%

To allow their parents to study

4%

6%

3%

6%

4%

-

1%

To allow their parent(s) to work if they are ill and can’t go to school or nursery

17%

13%

20%

14%

21%

-

14%

To give their parent(s) a break

47%

46%

48%

49%

44%

89%

48%

Because I want to (i.e. it doesn’t help their parent(s) out for any particular reason)

47%

44%

50%

47%

46%

59%

50%

None of these

2%

1%

3%

3%

2%

-

2%

In the first five years after a child is born, parents are entitled to take 18 weeks unpaid leave from work, up to a maximum of 4 weeks a year. Grandparents looking after grandchildren can take unpaid leave due to an emergency or to sort out an immediate problem. With this in mind, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?” In the first five years after a child is born, grandparents should be entitled to take unpaid leave from work of up to 10 days a year to look after their grandchildren”.

Base: All GB adults

 

Total

Male

Female

All workers (NET)

Retired

Unemployed

Not working /other

Strongly agree

20%

18%

21%

21%

13%

23%

22%

Tend to agree

26%

25%

28%

29%

18%

19%

29%

Neither agree nor disagree

20%

21%

20%

19%

25%

21%

21%

Tend to disagree

13%

13%

13%

13%

17%

11%

9%

Strongly disagree

13%

16%

11%

12%

20%

11%

10%

Don’t know

7%

7%

8%

6%

8%

16%

9%

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen   T: 020 7467 1248    M: 07778 158175    E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: [email protected]
Elly Gibson   T: 020 7467 1337    M: 07900 910624     E: [email protected]

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