Grandparents save UK parents over £16bn a year, study finds

Abigail Fenton
·2 min read
Grandparents and parents both benefit from informal caregiver arrangements. (Nikoline Arns/Unsplash)
Grandparents and parents both benefit from informal caregiver arrangements. Photo: Nikoline Arns/Unsplash

Grandparents in the UK save parents over £16.1bn ($20.4bn) every year by providing informal childcare, research suggests.

With over two thirds (65%) of grandparents looking after their grandchildren for an average of 11.3 hours a week, parents are saving about £1,786 a year on childcare services — £16.1bn across the nation, a survey by Ageas found.

What’s more, in London, where childcare costs are significantly higher, grandparents can help their own children save about £4,031 a year — almost double the average monthly wage in Britain.

This is based more on just money saved from grandparents babysitting — nearly a quarter (23%) of grandparents also help pay for formal childcare, so “the whole family can have a break,” according to the research.

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In a survey by Tombola, four in five (82%) of grandparents said they provide childcare simply because they love spending time with their grandchildren, while over two in five (44%) added it is an affordable way for their own children to return to work.

Nearly a fifth (19%) of parents choose informal childcare, such as asking their parents to babysit their kids, over nurseries, due to the cost, the Department of Education reported in 2017. However, many also choose grandparents for sentimental reasons.

Those with the highest household income — over £45,000 a year — are the second most-likely to rely on grandparents and other informal caregivers. They fall behind those with an income of £30,000 to £44,999, the data shows.

Grandparents also benefit from looking after their grandchildren. More than four in five (84%) said it has a “very positive” impact on their life. Research suggests it can help grandparents feel less depressed, in better health and, in some cases, contribute to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, according to Tombola.

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Nearly four in five (37%) grandparents who do not care for grandchildren at all, attested to bad health. Meanwhile, grandparents who look after their grandchildren are 8% less likely to report depressive symptoms.

Similarly, being with grandparents can also help reduce depressive symptoms in children, a Boston study found.

The study also found two in five parents rely on grandparents to help teach their kids maths, cooking and sewing. Nearly nine in 10 (86%) grandparents read to their grandchildren, and half help with homework.