Army of unpaid grandparents happy to help parents to return to work

Army of unpaid grandparents happy to help parents to return to work

A new survey by Mumsnet and sister site Gransnet puts the regular childcare provided by grandparents – worth an estimated £17bn annually to the UK economy –  under the spotlight.

  • A fifth (22%) of parents said help with childcare from grandparents was the only way they could afford to go back to work – and over a third (36%) said the best thing about the arrangement is the money they save
  • But when asked whether or not grandparents should be paid for regular childcare, two thirds (67%) of grandparents said ‘No, not at all’

The survey of parents who use grandparents for regular childcare and of grandparents who provide regular childcare found that, on average, grandparents who provide childcare look after two grandchildren, two days per week.

The survey found that, even if money and availability of childcare were no issue:

  • Eight out of ten parents (82%) would like their parents or in-laws to continue to provide childcare
  • Nine out of ten grandparents (92%) would still provide childcare for their grandchildren
  • Three quarters of grandparents (73%) describe the arrangement they have for looking after their grandchildren as “an amazing chance to spend time with my grandchildren”

More than a quarter (28%) of parents and a sixth of grandparents (12%)  said tensions arise as a result of their childcare arrangement.  For parents, the top three causes of tension are:

  • Nutritional content of meals and snacks provided by grandparents (31%)
  • Discipline (31%)
  • Amount of TV / screen time (19%)

The top three causes of tension for grandparents are:

  • The burden of having to commit to childcare year-round (29%)
  • Health worries – lack of energy, catching bugs from children (28%)
  • Childcare commitments curtailing social life (27%)

When it comes to costs:

  • Only 6% of parents pay a set rate for childcare provided by grandparents
  • Half of parents (57%) give gifts, and a quarter (23%) pay expenses

For parents, the best things about their childcare arrangement with their parents/in-laws are:

  • Knowing that my children are with someone who loves them (74%)
  • The closeness between my parents/in-laws and my children (69%)
  • Flexibility, convenience and peace of mind (50%)

For grandparents, the best things about providing childcare for their grandchildren are:

  • The closeness between me/us and our grandchildren (87%)
  • Knowing that my grandchildren are with someone who loves them (69%)
  • Flexibility, convenience and peace of mind (51%)

Mumsnet and Gransnet CEO Justine Roberts said: “Many parents are hugely reliant on grandparents for help with childcare because paid-for options are so expensive, so it’s brilliant  to see that despite niggles about screen time and the odd biscuit here and there, on balance it’s a good experience that draws the generations closer together.

Many grandparents do an enormous service by providing regular, loving, familial care that is often free or very low cost.  Our survey shows that with a bit of careful communication and management of expectations from both sides, regular childcare from grandparents can be a win-win.”