Should Grandparents be paid by their children to care for the grandchildren?
This is a particularly hot topic at the moment and it has received many comments on popular website, Gransnet.
Many grandparents love looking after the grandchildren. It helps both parties to get to know each other better and it develops strong emotional bonds, which last a lifetime. Research has shown that providing childcare for up to 15 hours per week can actually help grandparents stay fitter and healthier, even going to far as to suggest that looking after grandchildren lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
There seems to be general agreement that looking after the grandchildren one or two days a week is a good thing for everyone. Where it becomes more contentious is when the grandparents are supporting their children to go to work by looking after the grandchildren for four, five or even more days in the summer holidays or even all year round. In these cases, it is no longer a weekly treat to see the grandchildren but a return to the days of being a full-time child carer. This can be harder as grandparents get older and just keeping up with these bundles of energy becomes a strain.
There is also the financial component. While, in general, grandparents are more than willing to help out, the vast majority receive no payment to cover the cost of looking after little ones. Even though few grandparents want anything in exchange, providing this free childcare does have an impact on the older generation’s finances, as many shell out hefty sums each year for activities, food, drink and treats. What used to be “spoiling the grandchildren” once a week can become very expensive if it involves entertaining them all week. Findings from the Centre for the Modern Family, a think-tank set up by Scottish Widows, show that 26% of grandparent carers say their childcare responsibilities have had a negative impact on their finances.
Working age grandparents could qualify for Class 3 National Insurance credits for looking after children aged under 12, which can be used to top up their income in retirement. But for retired grandparents, there are no such financial benefits available. Insurance company RIAS produced a report into this subject and stated that:
- Grandparents spend an average of 9 hours a week looking after their grandchildren, saving parents £1,902 on childcare fees each year.
- On top of that, grandparents also contribute £9bn annually to clothes, toys and hobbies, pocket money, holidays and savings.
- 99% of grandparent childminders are not reimbursed for their time, with some giving £88 per month to support their families.
- Expense of looking after children leads a quarter of grandparents providing childcare to dip into savings (22%) and 7% going into debt.
- Grandparents in the North West are the most likely to provide childcare, with 74% looking after their grandchildren – they also put the most hours in averaging 12 hours per week.
It seems only fair then that, if they can afford it, working age children contribute to the cost of grandparent care. As a minimum they could pay for the cost of feeding and entertaining the grandchildren, since they are saving a small fortune in childcare fees.