A call for carers to stay at work

An estimated 60,000 grandparents – 9,000 per year or 25 every day – have dropped out of the UK labour market to bring up their grandchildren only to face a lack of recognition and support from Government, according to a new report by charity Grandparents Plus. As a result, these grandparents often end up in poverty.

Shared a 57-year-old grandmother who is raising her grandson and who is now unemployed and looking for work: “I was a manager at the time and had to be in the office Monday to Friday. I felt my job was threatened if I was to take time off and that things would be made difficult for me. So I had no choice other than to resign which I really did not want to do but my grandson’s needs were more important. I am struggling financially now because of it.”

The study, “Giving Up the Day Job?”, showed how almost half (47 percent) of grandparents and other family member (such as older siblings, aunts, uncles and other relatives and also termed as kinship) carers who were previously working had to give up their jobs to care for children, many of whom have emotional difficulties and would be in local authority care had their relative not stepped in. The carers have to rely on benefits as most do not receive any allowances from their local authority.

The report also shows how, unlike new parents or adoptive parents, working-age grandparents and family carers are not entitled to paid leave from work when children move in and most can’t even take unpaid parental leave. The majority of these carers are older working-age women who find it impossible to get back into work and are tipped into poverty as a result.

Other key findings of the report:

  • Four out of 10 (41 percent) of these carers are now reliant on welfare benefits.
  • Eighty-three percent of these carers want to stay in work.
  • Just one in eight (13 percent) manage to find their way back into a job.
  • Eighty-six percent are under 65.
  • Thirty-eight percent of them are lone carers. 
Fifty-four percent of kinship carers who were working when children moved in felt their employers were supportive but almost one in five did not tell their employer what had happened to their family.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said: “Grandparents and other relatives do the right thing for their families, stepping in to care for vulnerable children. Yet they are driven to give up their jobs because they are not entitled to parental leave, even though they are acting as the child’s parent. It makes absolutely no sense for the carer or for the taxpayer for them to give up work unnecessarily and be forced into a lifetime on benefits as a result.

“We want to see access to unpaid parental leave, and the introduction of a period of paid leave for grandparents and family carers, similar to maternity, paternity or adoption leave, when they take on responsibility for bringing up a child. We also want the Government to deliver on their promise of flexibility in the workplace for all employees. This will help carers stay in work.”

Around 200,000 grandparents and kinship carers in the UK are bringing up 300,000 children whose own parents can no longer fulfil the role due to death, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, illness and imprisonment.


(** PHOTOS COURTESY: Cambos Photography, UK)


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