UK lagging behind other countries in recognising crucial role of grandparents
‘Granny leave’, transferable parental leave and paid care: some of our European neighbours lead the way for growing numbers of grandparent
carers, says new report Britain’s grandparents are undervalued and overlooked compared to those in a number of other European counties, according to Grandparenting in Europe, a groundbreaking new study by charity Grandparents Plus, the Beth Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Gerontology at Kings College London.
Funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Grandparenting in Europe shows that with an increasingly ageing population, high numbers of mothers in employment and the prevalence of family breakdown, the contribution of grandparents is becoming increasingly important in family life - in the UK and across Europe. The study reveals:
- 6 out of 10 grandmothers and 5 out of 10 grandfathers across the EU provide
childcare for their grandchildren
- 40% of grandparents in Italy, Spain and Greece provide regular childcare
- 20% of grandparents in Sweden, France and Denmark provide regular childcare
But the UK is lagging behind some of its European neighbours when it comes to recognising the role of grandparents – leaving many struggling to juggle work and care and without financial support. The study shows that a number of EU countries have already taken steps to ensure grandparents’ role is supported including:
- Parents able to transfer parental leave to a grandparent
- Working grandparents able to take leave if their grandchild is unwell
- Grandparents being paid for the care they provide under certain circumstances
(eg to support teenage parents)
In the UK, parental leave cannot be transferred to grandparents, nor is it possible for parents to pay grandparents childcare tax credits or childcare vouchers if they care for children so that parents can work. Grandparents also have no right to request flexible working. 1 in 3 working mothers in the UK rely on grandparents for childcare.
Previous research published by Grandparents Plus shows that working age women on low incomes provide significant amounts of grandparental childcare.
However, the announcement that from April 2011 grandparents in the UK will be able to claim National Insurance credits is a significant step forward in the recognition of the caring contribution that grandparents make. Campaigners argue it’s time to build
on this by learning from some of the more progressive policies in Europe.