A recent report commissioned by Grandparents Plus has highlighted the disparity between the rights of parents and the rights of grandparents when it comes to looking after children. Entitled Giving Up the Day Job?, the report reveals that 86% of the people who give up their employment to care for children are younger than retirement age – and yet there is no provision in UK law to protect their position or help with the financial commitment involved.
A larger number of grandparents are stepping in to help care for vulnerable grandchildren than ever before. According to recent research as much as two thirds of people who have grandchildren under the age of 16 are routinely delivering childcare, often to ensure that the parents have time to go to work.
Often Social Services stipulate that a kinship carer must give up his or her job, before care of the grandchildren is allowed. Even in cases where such stipulation is not made, the demands of the schedule drawn up by the Social Services department in the area can often be so restrictive as to force the grandparents to take early retirement or simply to give up their jobs. With no provision under law for protecting their job (unlike, for example, mandatory paid maternity or paternity leave), grandparents have no recourse or current protection.
You can find out more about Social Services and carers here.
During the school holidays, there’s another level of care to take into consideration. Plenty of parents like to use the services of the grandparents as unpaid child-minders during the long summer break – but with more and more grandparents working that can take a toll on your normal schedule as well. Not to mention the transformation from doting grandmother (or grandfather of course) to just another member of the army of adults who get the children dressed in the morning, shoo them out the door, or lay down the law when they’re acting up.
Fortunately there are organisations out there whose mission is to help. Like the Grandparents Association, which has devoted the last 25 years to providing charitable support for grandparents and their families. From information on what to do when you have no contact with your grandchildren, to how to cope with full time child rearing in your silver years, their site is hard to better.
Family Lives, another charitable association, offers help and advice to parents and families of all ages. Family Lives runs a Parentline Plus service, which offers advice on everything related to bringing up baby. Controlling aggression, the right nutrition for the right ages – it’s all there.
Getting involved in significant or full time care for your grandchildren can be mentally, physically and financially exhausting – particularly if you fall into the kinship carer category I discussed earlier, and have to give up your job before retirement age to honour your commitment. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
If you have questions, or would like to learn more about the help currently available to kinship carers, you can Ask Granny, too.