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Image for Great Grandparents

Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 3rd July 2018

Great Grandparents

The sun’s out and school holidays are upon us – and for many grandparents now’s the time they step up to take care of their grandchildren.

Today’s families are busier than ever before. Most children are raised in households where both parents work outside of the home, and as families struggle to cope with the rising cost of childcare, grandparents looking after the their grandchildren is the only way many families cope. And according to research, grandparents put in enough work during the summer holidays to (hypothetically) earn more than £20,000.

Figures reveal that during the long six-week annual school summer holidays, the average grandparent in the UK will look after their grandchildren in some capacity for more than 600 hours.

• 85% of grandparents said they look after their grandchildren out of love.

• 60% said they did it to make their own children’s lives easier.

• 35% said they wanted to help cut childcare costs.

• 21% admitted to feeling guilty if they weren’t able to help out.

As well as being generous with their time, a third of grandparents also admitted being extremely generous with their money too. Grandparents, on average, spend slightly more than £150 on their grandchildren during the holidays, with 2% confessing to spending more than £400 on activities and gifts.

Last year’s Survation poll (completed thanks to the support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and published in June) found that parents are more likely to rely on grandparents (54%) than paid childcare (42%) over the summer holidays. Lucy Peake, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus (www.grandparentsplus.org.uk) said: “The summer holidays can be a really tricky time for working parents, and this poll shows just how reliant we are on grandparents stepping up to look after the children. It also shows how crucial they are in keeping women in the labour market, especially with childcare costs rising. What we can’t afford to do is take them for granted…”

Missing out on cashing in?

Thousands of grandparents caring for their grandchildren over the summer holidays could be missing out on a pension boost. An increasing number of grandparents are claiming national insurance credits to boost their state pension because they are looking after their grandchildren, but thousands more are missing out on the benefit, according to data obtained last year by Royal London under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

Under current rules, where a grandparent is looking after a grandchild and this allows the child’s parent to get back to work, the grandparent may be entitled to a national insurance credit to help them build up a full state pension. However, although there has been a seven-fold rise in the number of people claiming the credit, insurance firm Royal London said only one in 10 of those entitled to claim has done so. The HMRC figures obtained under the FOI showed that just 1,298 grandparents or other family members had claimed this national insurance credit in the year from October 2015 to September 2016.

Publicity around the availability of the credit led to a surge in uptake, with 9,486 applications in the year to September 2017.

Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister and now Director of Policy at Royal London, said: “It is right and proper that when grandparents sacrifice their own working life to help a family member get back to work, they should not also damage their own state pension prospects.

“This national insurance credit is a valuable right and it is good news that the numbers claiming have risen so dramatically in such a short space of time.

“But we believe that there are tens of thousands more grandparents who could be entitled to benefit and would encourage more of them to find out about the scheme and to make a claim.”

For more information, or if you think you might be entitled to claim national insurance credits, visit www.gov.uk/.../national-insurance.../specified-adult-childcare-credits-fact-sheet or www.gov.uk/government/news/looking-after-the-grandchildren-make-sure-it-counts-towards-your-state-pension, or contact your local Citizens Advice (visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk for your local branch).

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