29th November 2013 – Local Government Ombudsman finds kinship carers are being treated unfairly
In a report released on Carers’ Rights Day, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) says that kinship carers are receiving unfair treatment from their local authority. Stories cited include hundreds of kinship carers in a single council being denied the correct financial allowances and children being placed at increased risk because of failure to properly assess a suitable family placement.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, said: “We welcome the Local Government Ombudsman’s intervention on this issue. There are 200,000 grandparents and other family members who are raising up to 300,000 children in very difficult circumstances, children who would otherwise be in the care system. Often these carers are struggling alone without the financial and practical support they need. They deserve a fairer deal and we hope that this report may be the beginning of making that a reality.”
Read the report here.
23rd September 2013 – Labour’s Older Women’s Commission responds to the pressure on grandparents to work and care
Commenting on proposals published in the Labour Party’s Older Women’s Commission Interim Report, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“We warmly welcome this report and we are pleased to see the kind of creative thinking that Labour is now doing to respond to the reality of family life, and especially the lives of older women who so often care for both older and younger generations.
“Grandparents are all too often the ones under pressure. The proposal for adjustment leave would give them much-needed breathing space to deal with a family crisis or emergency. We also welcome discussions about transferable leave and grandparent leave as ways of recognising the care that grandparents provide and helping them to remain in work.
“The big strategic challenge we face is that of our ageing population and in particular – how we both stay in work longer and provide the informal care that both older and younger generations need. Grandparents are the ones at the sharp end and torn in different directions. Politicians are beginning to realise that public policy needs to respond.”
16th September 2013 – Grandparents and kinship carers recognised for the first time in Lib Dem Policy
New policy would see family members raising children entitled to paid leave, services and support from local authorities.
Campaigners are claiming a significant victory today as Liberal Democrat conference backed a policy amendment which would see grandparents and other family members entitled to paid leave from work if they step in to raise a child who cannot live with their parents. This is now official party policy and on the table for the next election manifesto.
The policy, the first of its kind, would also entitle children living with kinship carers to support from statutory agencies, similar to that available for fostered and adopted children.
There are 200,000 grandparents and family carers raising up to 300,000 children in the UK. These children have usually had very similar experiences to those in the care system, such as parental alcohol or drug misuse, abuse or neglect, domestic violence, death or imprisonment. But most do not receive allowances and support from their local authority.
Grandparents Plus research has found that half (47%) of working kinship carers give up work when a child moves in. Polling by the charity has found overwhelming public backing for family members raising children with 7 in 10 people agreeing they should get the same services and support as foster carers and 6 in 10 backing paid leave entitlements.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“This is a signifciant step forward on the road to recognition for grandparents and other family members who step in to raise children, usually in tragic circumstances, when parent can no longer do so.”
“The Lib Dems are in tune with public opinion on this issue. It’s time the other parties caught up and ensured this deserving group are properly recognised and supported.”
Gordon Lishman, former CEO of Age Concern and Liberal Democrat policy adviser said:
“I was delighted to be able to move this amendment at conference on behalf of Burnley Lib Dems. It received overwhelming support and shows that the time is ripe for change. It is good to see the Liberal Democrats leading the way on this important and neglected issue.”
You can read the press release in full here
1 August 2013 – Local Government Ombudsman finds Liverpool Council are underpaying kinship carers
Grandparents Plus welcomes the Local Government Ombudsman report published today finding that Liverpool City Council is failing to pay 340 foster carers and special guardians in the city adequate allowances. The report urges other local authorities to ensure that carers in their areas are not experiencing similar problems.
Sarah Wellard, Director of Policy, Research and Communications said, “We welcome the Local Government Ombudsman’s statement that it is only fair that kinship carers and foster carers get the benefits and allowances they rightly deserve. Grandparents, aunts and other family members bringing up children because of serious problems like parental death, addiction, abuse and neglect, all too often struggle to get the financial and practical help they need. They are saving the State a fortune by keeping children out of care yet many are propelled into poverty as a result of becoming carers.
“We are delighted to hear that Liverpool has accepted it is at fault and is backdating the allowances due. We also support the Ombudsman’s call for other local authorities to review their procedures – we know from calls to our advice service that this is a nationwide problem.”
20 June 2013 – UK grandparents raise 135,000 abused and neglected children
Survey finds almost half of children raised by grandparents have never received help from authorities
Almost half (44%) of children growing up with grandparents have never received help from children’s services, even though they may have suffered parental abuse or neglect or the death of a parent, according to a new survey by charity Grandparents Plus published today. The research also finds that 54% of children growing up with grandparents and other family members have a special need or disability.
45% of the children are living with grandparents and other family members (“kinship carers”) because they have previously suffered abuse or neglect, amounting to 135,000 children across the UK. 44% have suffered parental drug or alcohol abuse and. 11% have experienced the death of a parent. But only 8% of the grandparents have received counselling or help with parenting, and just one in 20 have had access to respite care.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive at Grandparents Plus said, “Far too many children who have suffered abuse and neglect or the death of a parent are being ignored by children’s services. There is a huge gap between what they need and what they receive. Government guidance clearly says that support should be based on the needs of the child but this is not being followed.
“The grandparents and carers looking after them are routinely left unsupported and as a result often end up depressed, stressed or isolated.”
The survey of 310 grandparents and other family members, together bringing up 420 children, also found that:
- 53% of the children had emotional or behavioural problems at home when they started living with their kinship carer.
- Four out of five (80%) say they find bringing up children in these circumstances more challenging than bringing up their own children.
- More than half of the children (54%) have special needs or a disability. Four in ten have emotional and behavioural problems, 16% have a learning disability and 8% have autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
- Half of kinship carers who have contact with children’s parents (51%) find managing contact problematic.
- Although four in ten (37%) agree that contact with their parents is beneficial for the children, one in seven (13%) say children are distressed by contact with parents.
- Four in ten of the carers have a disability or long term health condition themselves.
- Three in ten carers (32%) are also looking after an elderly or disabled relative or friend.
Kinship carers and young people who have grown up in kinship care are going to Westminster today to attend a Ministerial Summit to meet Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson MP and Shadow Children’s Minister Lisa Nandy MP. They will be telling them that children in kinship care are being treated as second-class citizens, because they are not accorded the same support as children in care or those who are adopted.
Sam Smethers added, “We want to see children’s services doing far more to support children brought up by family members, and their carers. All too often kinship carers are left struggling to bring up needy and challenging children without any support. Yet these children would be in care if their grandparent or other family member hadn’t stepped in.”
10 June 2013 – Celebrating Kinship Care with an Award!
Grandparents Plus and Neil Stewart Associates held the Inaugural Kinship Care Awards in Central London on 6th June. A full list of winners is available here. Commenting on her award for Political Champion of the Year Baroness Massey of Darwen said:
“I am delighted to have won this award. For me, it signifies the importance of recognising amazing and dedicated kinship carers who strive to make sure that children get the best possible deal in difficult circumstances. They deserve all our support.”
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus added:
“We wanted to use the Awards to raise the profile of kinship care and to celebrate the achievements of kinship carers and those who work in the field. We had a wonderful night. Many congratulations to all our shortlisted candidates and to our winners! And a big thank you to all our sponsors.”
30 May 2013 – Grandparents “throw squeezed families a life line”
Grandparental childcare up by a third and now worth £7.3 billion
Charities Age UK and Grandparents Plus have today launched new analysis revealing the informal childcare provided by grandparents is now worth £7.3 billion a year, up from £3.9 billion in 2004.
The analysis shows that both the number of children looked after by grandparents and the length of time that grandparents spend on childcare are rising. Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 the number of children receiving informal childcare from their grandparents went up from 1.3 million to 1.6 million (from 11.7% to 14.3% of all children under 14). The total number of child-hours of childcare provided by grandparents over the year also rose from 1.3 billion to 1.7 billion, a 35% increase.
The analysis has been conducted for the two charities by Age UK Chief Economist Prof José Iparraguirre and Sarah Wellard, Director of Policy, Research and Communications at Grandparents Plus, drawing on data from the national Understanding Society Survey, which includes information on childcare usage by over 11,000 children. The analysis is included in a new briefing paper that has been produced by Grandparents Plus and published today.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus commented, “Grandparents are throwing a life line to families squeezed by falling real incomes and rising childcare costs. The contribution they are making within their families and the wider economy is enormous and rising.”
Caroline Abrahams, Director of External Affairs at Age UK said, “Grandparents are such an important part of children’s lives and are, it would seem, playing an increasing role in providing an affordable way for parents to continue working. As the state pension age rises, it may become increasingly difficult for grandparents to continue providing such invaluable support, which is why Age UK would like to see everyone being able to request flexible working arrangements from their employers.”
Working grandmother Josune Arzalluz said, “You see your children stuck so you just want to give them a hand, as a parent that’s what you do, don’t you? I went part-time at work because my daughter asked me to. I thought it wasn’t fair on the child to be at nursery 10 hours a day, five days a week, he was too small for that.”
Sam Smethers added, “Research shows that grandparents providing childcare tend to be grandmothers who are younger, fitter and healthier, but no longer working. They are the very women who are being expected to remain longer in work to pay for healthcare and pensions in older age. The risk is of an emerging childcare gap, as grandmothers stay in paid work and are no longer available to provide care, with mothers leaving the labour market as a result.
“The Government needs to respond by increasing the affordability and availability of formal childcare, and making it easier for grandparents to combine work and caring responsibilities. We need more flexible working and greater flexibility in the way parental leave can be used, for example making it transferable to a grandparent. A useful first step would be to make emergency leave when children are ill or schools are closed available for grandparents.”
- Half of all mothers rely on grandparents to provide childcare when they return to work after maternity leave.
- 63% of all grandparents with a grandchild under 16 look after their grandchildren.
- 19% of grandmothers provide at least 10 hours of childcare a week.
- One in four working families depends on grandparents for childcare.
May 1 2013 – Commenting on the launch of the Care Inquiry Report Making not Breaking, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“This important report points the way forward for children in care and those on the edge of care. It recognises that it’s relationships that matter. Children need those relationships to be supported and nurtured not broken and undermined. We know that it’s the relationship that grandparents and family members have with children that often makes kinship care such a good option for them. But what is important is finding the right option for each individual child, giving them the stability they need, and recognising that can be found in adoption, fostering or kinship care.”
You can find out more about the Care Inquiry and read the report here.
15 March 2013 – “Care gap crisis” looms with British grandparents working more than rest of Europe
23% Grandparents still in work whilst 6 in 10 Grandparents care for children
British grandparents are almost twice as likely to be in paid work as their European counterparts, whilst six in ten provide childcare for grandchildren, according to a major academic study of grandparenting in 12 European countries launched today by the charity, Grandparents Plus – which is warning of a “care gap crisis” unless action is taken.
The study from King’s College London shows that almost a quarter (23%) of grandparents aged 50 and over in England are in paid work compared with just one in seven across 11 other European countries. 63% of grandparents – seven million people – in the UK provide essential childcare, often allowing the parents to go work, with one in five (19%) providing at least 10 hours a week.
Grandparenting in Europe, produced for Grandparents Plus by the Institute for Gerontology at King’s College London in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Beth Johnson Foundation, points to an emerging childcare crisis, with England and the UK worse off than other European countries in the study, as grandparents pick up childcare duties whilst parents work. Yet the pressure on grandparents to stay in work themselves as the pension age rises beyond 65, coupled with patchy and expensive formal childcare means more working parents will be unable to make work pay says Grandparents Plus.
“This research shows that the UK faces a looming care gap and a stark choice.” says Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus. “We already have more of our grandparents working than elsewhere in Europe. They tend to be younger too.
Grandparents Plus is calling for the implementation of the right to request flexible working to all, which we would especially benefit grandparents and for grandparents to have access to periods of unpaid emergency and parental leave, either in their own right or transferred from a parent.
In Germany, working grandparents are able to take up paid leave to look after a grandchild in an emergency, or take unpaid leave. In Hungary, parental allowances and leave can be transferred to grandparents providing care for grandchildren.
The charity also wants to explore whether families would welcome having the option to transfer a period of paid maternity leave to grandparents, after the first 6 months which would be reserved for mothers and fathers.
“What our work shows is the importance of considering the intergenerational link when looking at both increasing women’s labour market participation and childcare issues.” adds Dr Karen Glaser, Director of the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London and the study’s academic lead.
“If we want grandmothers to stay in work longer – and we are told that our ageing population demands that they have to – we need to invest in affordable, universal formal childcare provision or see more mums leaving the labour market.
Grandparenting in Europe also shows:
- Grandmothers aged 50 to 69 who are not in paid work are most likely to provide childcare. Yet plans across Europe to extend retirement ages and increase numbers of women in the workforce at older age conflicts with their increasingly important role providing childcare English grandparents are relatively young, more likely to be in paid work and have more grandchildren on average than grandparents in the other 11 countries in the study
- In England 67% of women over 50 are grandmothers and 58% of men over 50 are grandfathers
- The percentage of working age grandparents in England is 41%, compared with around a third in Spain and Italy. The highest percentage of working aged grandparents are in Scandinavia
- English grandparents have the most grandchildren – an average of 4.9 compared with 4.2 across the other countries in the study. English grandmothers have on average 5.2 grandchildren and English grandfathers have 4.6 grandchildren, more than in any other country studied.
15 March 2013 -European grandparents face “care gap crisis”.
40% Of European grandparents provide childcare as parents work – support needed says British Charity.Grandparents across Europe are playing an increasingly important but invisible role providing essential childcare for free whilst parents work, despite pressures on them to stay in paid work for longer. This is creating a “care gap crisis” and threatening their income in older age, according to a major academic study released by the British charity, Grandparents Plus, today.
- Download full European Press Release.
6 March 2013 – Grandparents Plus responds to Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute Childcare Cost Survey.
Responding to the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute Childcare Costs Survey Sam Smethers, Chief Executive said:
“With the cost of childcare rising at double the rate of inflation working parents are under even more pressure. Many of those who can will turn to grandparents to step in to fill the gap so that they can work. But increasingly grandparents are under pressure to work too. They need greater flexibility at work if they are going to combine work and care. Ultimately the only sustainable solution for parents, grandparents and the economy is affordable, universal formal childcare. ”
6 March 2013 – Grandparents Plus welcomes the Lords Adoption Committee Report
Commenting on the Lords Adoption Committee Report, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive said:
“This report is very welcome. We particularly welcome the Committee’s recognition of the need for a range of permanency options for children who can no longer live with their parents. This includes kinship care, long-term fostering as well as adoption. They also warn of the risk of prioritising the speed of placements above finding the right home for a child.
Significantly, peers call for a legal duty to be placed on local authorities to provide post-adoption support and recommend the same support should be available to kinship carers as adoptive parents who are raising a child who has been looked after. We know that a lack of financial and practical support is a real issue for carers and children many of whom have experienced significant family trauma and disadvantage.”
14 February 2013 – Newcastle Grans and Grandads to the rescue!
National charities Grandparents Plus, Family Lives and the Family and Parenting Institute are today putting out a call to grandparents and older family carers in Newcastle and North Tyneside to help other grandparents and family members who have stepped in to bring up children. Between 8,000 and 12,000 children in the North East are living with grandparents and other family members because their parents have died or can’t look after them because of drug or alcohol addiction, illness or disability, abuse, imprisonment or other serious family problems. An exciting new project, being launched at an event in Newcastle today, aims to give them a helping hand.
Grandparents and other relatives (kinship carers) who have stepped in to bring up children often face isolation, poverty and stress. Half of the children they are raising have disabilities or special needs. The three charities are working together to link grandparents and kinship carers with volunteers who will provide a listening ear, useful life experience and help out with some of the challenges for older people bringing up children.
One grandmother raising her two grandsons said, “Bringing up my grandchildren is far more stressful because of challenging behaviour arising out of the traumas they have suffered.”
The new project, Relative Experience, is run by Grandparents Plus together with Family Lives and the Family and Parenting Institute, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund Silver Dreams Fund for older people.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus, said: “Bringing up a child when you’re in your 50s, 60s or even 70s can be extremely demanding. We’re looking for volunteers who’ve brought up their own children or who are kinship carers themselves, and are willing to support grandparents and kinship carers who may be feeling isolated or struggling on a low income.”
Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive said: “Family Lives works tirelessly to support families – our success is not possible without the professionalism and skill of our talented volunteers. Thanks to the Big Lottery Fund Silver Dreams Fund, there is a real opportunity to ensure kinship carers in Newcastle and North Tyneside receive support and guidance.”
Anand Shukla, CEO at the Family and Parenting Institute and Daycare Trust said: “Most grandparent and kinship carers get no support from local authorities – even though they are bringing up children who may have suffered abuse or neglect.”
A recent YouGov poll found:
- 74% of adults in the North East of England think grandparents and other relatives bringing up a child should receive practical help from their local council
- 72% think they should receive a financial allowance. This rises to 75% of adults who think grandparents should get a financial allowance if they are on a low income.
- 83% think they should receive similar support to foster carers.
14 January 2013 – Grandparents Plus welcomes new Universal State Pension
Responding to the Government announcement of the Universal State Pension, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
‘This is a major step forward for those who spend time out of paid work to care for their loved ones. Many of those affected will be grandparents and the majority of those will be grandmothers. They are often the ones facing pressure to care for their own children, grandchildren and a partner or older relative too.’
The Government is planning to introduce a flat rate pension of £144 per week for new pensioners from 2017.
17 December – Grandparents Plus and Santa highlight adverse impact of Housing Benefit changes on kinship carers
Grandparents Plus has used it’s 2012 Christmas card, designed by cartoonist Tim Sanders, to highlight the effect of housing benefit changes on kinship carers. It shows Santa as a grandparent carer complaining about having to move to the North Pole because ‘since they cut housing benefit it’s the only place we can afford.’
One of the changes being implemented is the ‘under-occupying’ rule. One grandmother raising two young children in a 3 bedroom house is deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ and so either faces a cut in housing benefit of £16 per week or the prospect of moving to a two bedroom council property. The local authority involved has informed her there are few two bedroom properties available. The family do not want to move as the children are settled. Grandparents Plus has taken up her case by helping her write to her MP and the lead member for Children’s Services in her area.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“22% of grandparents and wider family carers depend on housing benefit – above the national average. In the run up to Christmas families are receiving letters telling them they face cuts of 14% or more. They simply can’t cope with this kind of reduction in income.”
“Kinship carers save the tax payer millions of pounds each year by keeping children out of care. These welfare reforms will make it even more difficult for them to step forward to provide that care and could lead to children being taken into foster care unnecessarily.”
11 November – Right to request flexible working to be extended to all
Responding to the announcement that the Government will extend the right to request flexible working to all, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“We warmly welcome this move. This is something that we have been calling for for some time. Grandparents who are trying to juggle work and caring for their grandchildren are one of the key groups who will benefit. 1 in 4 working mums rely on them for childcare.
“The next step is to make it possible for parents to transfer unused periods of parental leave to grandparents, if that’s what families want to do. And to create leave entitlements for those grandparents and other family members who step into the parenting role, keeping children out of care.”
9 November – YouGov poll shows massive support for Grandparent Carers
A nationwide poll commissioned by Grandparents Plus, the Family and Parenting Institute and Family Lives shows that 76% of adults think grandparents and other family members who are bringing up a child because their parents cannot look after them should receive practical help for m the local authority. 67% say they should receive a financial allowance and 71% say they should receive similar support to foster carers.
Grandparents Plus chief executive Sam Smethers says, “Grandparent carers are already treated as second class citizens because they are not entitled to the same support as foster carers. The latest proposals to cap benefits for families with more than two children will penalise kinship carers for providing that care because they tend to be looking after larger numbers of children. The poll clearly shows that the proposals are out of line with public opinion, where kinship carers are concerned.”
Read our briefing paper and press releases for further details
7 November 2012 – Grandparents Plus welcomes the Education Select Committee’s report on child protection
Sarah Wellard, Policy and Research Manager says:
“This report underlines the huge pressures on the child protection system due to increasing numbers of referrals and cuts in resources. But the Committee have overlooked the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in safeguarding children. In most families, when children cannot live with their birth parents because of abuse or other problems, relatives step in to keep them out of care. As a result there are between 200,000 and 300,000 children in the UK growing up with grandparents and other relatives.
“It’s time both the Government and local authorities follow the statutory guidance and focus on ensuring that kinship care is recognised and supported as the first line of child protection, and that whenever it is in children’s best interests they are enabled to stay within their wider familyif they can’t live with their parents. It makes sense for children and reduces the cost to the taxpayer.”
12 October – Flexible parental leave
Grandparents Plus welcomes today’s news that parents in future will have greater choice in who takes leave to look after a newborn baby.
Sarah Wellard, Policy and Research Manager at Grandparents Plus says:
“We welcome parents being able to make their own decisions about who should take leave. But it’s time to recognise that in some families, neither the mother of the father is able to look after the baby, and it is a grandmother or other relative who steps in – for example if the mother dies, or is seriously ill or incapacitated. Half of grandparents with young grandchildren are under the age of 65, and many are still working. Some employers in these cases are willing to let the grandparent take paid leave from work, because they want to retain a valued worker. But all too often the grandparent has to give up their job, because they have no legal entitlement to take leave. They often find if difficult to get back into work, resulting in dependence on benefits and poverty.
“We want to see grandparents and other relatives who step in to look after a child when their parents cannot look after them treated in a similar way to new and adoptive parents, with a right to take a period of paid leave. At the moment most are not even entitled to take unpaid parental leave. An estimated 60,000 grandparents and other relatives have fallen out of the labour market to care for children.”
10 September – Loss of support with childcare costs under Universal Credit
Grandparents Plus welcomes the new report from the Children’s Society highlighting the loss of support with childcare costs under Universal Credit for 100,000 of the UK’s poorest families.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive comments
“As well as leading to poor families leaving the labour market because they can’t afford childcare, this change will put pressure on the wider family and especially grandparents to step in, either financially or by providing childcare. One in four families is already relying on grandparents to look after children while they work.”
19 July – Grandparents Plus responds to report that only one in three local councils provide enough holiday childcare
Two-thirds of local authorities in England are failing in their legal duty to ensure there is sufficient childcare available in their area this summer – and over half have had their holiday childcare budgets cut in the last year. These are amongst the key findings of Daycare Trust’s 2012 holiday childcare costs survey published today.
Commenting on the survey results, Sam Smethers Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“This important research reveals every parent’s headache. Holiday childcare is expensive and provision is patchy. It’s no wonder that parents regularly turn to grandparents to step in to fill the gap. 6 out of 10 grandparents help out with childcare and the school holidays is a key time for that. Without grandparents many parents would simply be unable to cope with the long summer break.”
28 June – English grandparents – younger, working and have more grandchildren than other countries in Europe finds new study
English grandparents are relatively young, more likely to be in paid work and have more grandchildren on average than European grandparents according to new findings from a major study from the charity, Grandparents Plus. They are also less likely than their European counterparts to report poor health or depressive symptoms.
Based on data from 12 European states, the new research shows that 63% of people in England over 50 are grandparents, similar to France and Austria, but more than in Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Only Belgium, Denmark and Sweden have a higher percentage of older people who are grandparents.
One in four (23%) of English grandparents aged 50 and over are in paid work, compared with an average of just one in seven across the other 11 countries studied. Only Denmark and Sweden have a higher percentage of working grandparents (around 30%).
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, commented,
“1 in 4 working parents in the UK rely on grandparents for childcare, and one in five (19%) of grandmothers are spending at least 10 hours a week looking after grandchildren. The high percentage of grandparents in the UK who are themselves still working underlines the need for the Government to introduce a right to request flexible working for all, to enable grandparents to balance employment with caring for grandchildren.”
English grandparents also have more grandchildren than their European counterparts, with an average of nearly five (4.9) compared with an average across the other 11 countries of 4.2.
English grandparents are on average younger than in most European countries, with only Denmark having a higher proportion of grandparents in the 50 to 65 age group. While this makes England similar to France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Belgium, grandparents are older in Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany and Switzerland, where about two thirds or more are over 65.
The research, conducted by the Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London, in partnership with Grandparents Plus, the Beth Johnson Foundation and supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, is based on data from over 40,000 respondents aged 50 plus to the Survey of Ageing, Health and Retirement (SHARE) from 11 European countries and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), as well as on European Census data. The preliminary findings launched today are part of a European study of the role of grandparents in family life.
Sam Smethers added: “1 in 4 working families already rely on grandparents for childcare. Rising childcare costs and squeezed family budgets mean grandparents are under increasing pressure to look after grandchildren while parents work. Yet grandparents, especially grandmothers, are expected to remain in work longer before they can draw a pension. There is a risk of a serious ‘care gap’ emerging here.
“We want the Government’s recently-announced childcare review to consider the role of grandparents.”
Alan Hatton-Yeo, Chief Executive of the Beth Johnson Foundation said, “There is also a risk of older women leaving the labour market early to provide care, and being at risk of poverty in old age as a result.”
You can read the full press release here.
You can read the Preliminary Findings briefing here.
25 June – We need a champion for older people says Grandparents Plus
Speaking ahead of a parliamentary debate, Chief Executive Sam Smethers said:
“We need a minister for older people who can champion the huge contribution that older people make to society and in particular to family life. More than 6 out of 10 grandparents spend time caring for their grandchildren. Research shows grandparents are net contributors to families until they reach the age of 75. It’s time for us to focus on that positive contribution.”
You can find out more about the Grey Pride campaign for a Minister for Older People here.
22 June – Kinship Carers win major concession under Welfare Reform measures
Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud yesterday announced a year’s exemption from conditionality under Universal Credit for grandparents and other relatives (kinship) carers who are taking on the responsibility for bringing up children because their parents cannot look after them.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said,
“We welcome Lord Freud’s announcement. We are delighted that the Minister has listened to the views of kinship carers. They are keeping children out of the care system and it is vital that they are supported to do this, rather than being required to look for work at the same time as trying to settle in vulnerable children who may have suffered trauma or abuse. This is a common sense measure which we have been campaigning for under Welfare Reform.”
Almost half of working grandparents and other family (kinship) carers give up work when children move in. The change will make easier for kinship carers to settle children, and will provide reassurance for people who have to give up work.
18 June 2012 – In Your Silver Dreams! Exciting new project throws grandparent carers a lifeline.
Campaigning charity Grandparents Plus has joined forces with leading national family charities Family Lives and the Family and Parenting Institute to launch an exciting new project in the North East. The initiative is being funded by the Big Lottery Silver Dreams fund and is the first of its kind.
The Relative Experience project focuses on grandparents and older family members who are facing the challenge of parenting again because parents are no longer able to care for their children. It will provide peer to peer parenting support from other grandparents and older people in the North East. Older volunteers will be recruited, trained and matched with families who need their help.
Commenting on the launch, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“We are delighted to be doing this work. This project is desperately needed. We know from our support network that grandparents and family carers across Newcastle and the North East need to find other people in the same situation. But they’ve also told us they need help to deal with some of the behavioural problems and the challenging issues that they and the children have been through.”
Download the Silver Dreams launch press release.
12 June 2012 – Giving Up the Day Job? 25 grandparents a day quit work to care for children, new study shows.
60,000 grandparents – 9,000 per year or 25 every day – have dropped out of the labour market to bring up their grandchildren only to face a lack of recognition and support from Government. As a result, they often end up in poverty, a new report from charity Grandparents Plus reveals today.
The study, Giving Up the Day Job?, shows how almost half of grandparents and other family (kinship) carers who were previously working gave 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 shows too 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.
Around 200,000 grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and other relatives (known as 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:
Giving Up the Day Job? finds that:
- Almost half (47%) of grandparents and other kinship carers who were previously working gave up their job when the children moved in
- Four out of ten (41%) of these carers are now reliant on welfare benefits
- 83% of these carers want to stay in work
- Just one in eight (13%) manage to find their way back into a job
- 86% are under 65
- 38% of them are lone carers.
54% of kinship carers who were working when children moved in felt their employers were
supportive but almost 1 in 5 did not tell their employer what had happened to their
family. Others were pressured by social workers to give up work or see the child taken in
The demands of raising a vulnerable child coupled with lack of entitlement to leave and
difficulties in finding flexible work mean that many carers have no choice but to give up
their job. Long-term unemployment rates for older workers are at a 15 year high.
Grandparents Plus is calling on the Government, Children’s Services and employers to
take action to reduce the number of grandparents and kinship carers who are forced to
give up work when they take on the care of a child.
They want to see:
1. Entitlement for kinship carers to take paid leave when they take on full-time care of a child.
2. Extension of unpaid parental leave to kinship carers up to the child’s 18th birthday.
3. Transferable maternity leave if the mother or father is unable to look after a baby.
4. The right to request flexible working extended to all workers.
5. Local authorities to fully implement the Statutory Guidance on Family and Friends Care and to respect their obligations to assess carers and in many cases pay financial allowances.
6. The introduction of a National Financial Allowance for kinship carers who look after a child for more than 28 days.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, said today:
“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.”
Giving Up the Day Job? also shows the impact on grandparent carers of taking on the
care of a child :
“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.”
57-year-old grandmother raising grandson, now unemployed and looking for work.
“It is exhausting, especially the poverty side of it, never being able to afford a holiday etc. Because you have initially given up work, you can’t get another job and are therefore pushed into poverty for the rest of your life as no pension means always on state benefits.” Grandmother raising her granddaughter, now dependent on welfare benefits as her main source of income.
“I was told to give up work by social services or they would take my grandchild away from us.” Grandmother raising 3-year-old granddaughter, now unemployed and looking for work.
Grandparents Plus is hosting a National Summit for Kinship Carers today at Europe House in Westminster. Grandparents and kinship carers from across the country are meeting with Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton MP, local authority Lead Members for Children’s Services and David Simmonds, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, along with other representatives of the Kinship Care Alliance.
Grandparents and kinship carers will be calling on the Government and local authorities to provide better support, as well making easier for them to remain in the labour market. They say they have become ‘forgotten families’, with their contribution unrecognised by the state – and they are making their point by taking part in a national month of action.
You can download
Family Lives Responds To Grandparents Plus’s Giving Up the Day Job? Report
Family Lives welcomes and supports this new report, which rightly highlights the many difficulties that grandparents and other kinship carers currently face when attempting to combine work with caring for their young relatives. As ‘Giving Up the Day Job’ makes clear, kinship carers currently have little statutory support for their caring roles which means that many rely on the goodwill of their employers to take periods of leave or find that they have to give up their jobs. For many carers in this situation there is a high risk of ending up in poverty or relying on state support.
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.
24 May 2012 – Commenting on a new report from the US on kinship care Chief Executive, Sam Smethers said:
“This report finds that 1 in 25 American children are living in kinship care, and that the number of children in kinship care has risen by 18% over the past decade. It also suggests that rates of living in kinship care are much higher for children from black and minority ethnic communities.”
“We need much better data to be collected on family and friends carers in the UK. We suspect there is a similar increase in kinship care taking place here but government simply doesn’t collect the data.”
You can view a summary of the report here.
14 May 2012 – Grandparents and family carers angry that wider family overlooked in Government drive to speed adoptions
Grandparents and other family (kinship) carers are angry that the Government is failing to match their new drive to improve adoption with support for wider family members who have stepped in to keep vulnerable children out of care.
They feel that the new drive to focus on adoption overlooks their contribution, and risks children being placed for adoption when wider family members would be willing to raise them. On Wednesday a group of carers are meeting with Adoption Tsar Martin Narey at the Community Care live event to discuss their concerns.
Laura, 43, a grandmother who has been raising two grandchildren aged three and six since they were both babies says, “Kinship care should not be portrayed as an inferior choice to adoption. We feel like we are second class citizens and this is so wrong.”
For every child adopted from care each year there are more than 70 living with kinship carers. Legally, children’s services should first consider placing children with other family members before exploring other options, including adoption. But campaigners are worried that the new focus on adoption risks undermining this key principle.
Paula, who is raising her cousin’s son says, “I am a firm advocate of adoption but it should be the second choice. The first should always be the wider family, provided that is in the child’s best interests. Every child deserves a ‘forever family’ but family members should be involved in decisions and given an opportunity to take over their care, with help and support from children’s services if needed.”
Paula’s cousin has four older children who were all taken into care or adopted without Paula’s knowledge. The siblings have been split up and have no contact with each other or other family members. Paula wonders whether the boy she is bringing up could have been successfully placed with an adoptive family because of his behavioural problems. “He lashes out regularly and is quite honestly difficult to love at times. But he is my blood family though and this means something to me. He is my kin and it gives me strength to go on when times are tough.”
Children living with grandparents or other family members often have similar emotional and behavioural difficulties to children in care as a result of their early experiences with birth parents. However, many kinship carers receive no support from children’s services and an overwhelming majority of those who do have contact with children’s services are dissatisfied with the experience.
Laura adds, “We ensure the safety of our children, often living on reduced incomes and in cramped conditions. Many of is give up well paid jobs and careers. We battle to get the best support we can for our children, many of whom have emotional and behavioural problems.”
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said, “No one wants to see children left in care when they could have a permanent home with a loving family. But the first step should be to ensure that grandparents and other family members are properly considered when children cannot live with their parents. Simply speeding up adoption assessments could result in rushed decisions which aren’t in children’s best interests. It’s time the vital role kinship carers play in providing security and stability for vulnerable children was properly recognised and supported.”
“We need to focus on the needs of all looked after children and those living with their wider families. Adoption is an important part of the picture but it is not the only option.”
“We want to see paid leave for grandparents and family carers, a national financial allowance and access to local support services.”
Please call …. to arrange an interview or to talk about the story in more detail. Please see key facts about kinship care below.
Notes to Editors
- Grandparents Plus is the national charity which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives - especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances. www.grandparentsplus.org.uk
- Grandparents Plus runs a confidential advice line (0300 123 7015, 10 am- 3pm Monday to Friday) and peer support network for kinship carers.
- There are around 200,000 family and friends carers (kinship carers) in the UK including grandparents and older siblings who have stepped in to bring up vulnerable children because they cannot live safely with their parents. This may be because parents are substance misusers, have died or suffer serious illness, or due to child abuse and neglect.
- Two thirds of family and friends carers are struggling on very low incomes and 57% give up work or reduce their hours when a child moves in.
- 48% of family and friends carers are caring for a child with a disability, emotional problems or special educational needs.
- Grandparents Plus survey found that 88% are aged under 65 and 42% under 55.
- 77% of family and friends carers say they didn’t understand the legal options available to them when a child first came to live with them.
- Most children in care are aged over 10 years old. It becomes more difficult to successfully adopt a child the older they are.
- There were 3,050 children placed for adoption last year (DfE March 2011), most were aged under 4 years old.
Grandparents Plus is calling for better recognition and support for kinship carers, including:
- A period of paid leave equivalent to adoption leave when carers take on the care of a child.
- Better access to services for kinship carers and the children they are looking after including peer support groups, family group conferencing and improved access for children to counselling and child and adolescent mental health services
- A national financial allowance for kinship carers.
9 May 2012 – Grandparents Plus responds to family policy announcements in Queen’s Speech
Commenting, Chief Executive, Sam Smethers said:
“We share the Government’s aim of keeping children out of care unnecessarily. But the first step is to ensure that grandparents and other family members are properly considered and supported when children can’t live with their parents. This would both be cost effective and would help many more children. Simply speeding up care proceedings and adoption assessments could result in rushed decisions which aren’t in children’s best interests.”
8 May 2012 – Grandparents Plus backs Fostering Network’s #22minutes Campaign
Grandparents Plus Chief Executive, Sam Smethers commented:
“We support Fostering Network’s important new campaign. The increase in children coming into care means there is growing pressure on the system to accommodate them and a chronic shortage of foster carers. We want to see a greater emphasis on the role of family and friends carers to provide alternative homes for children who cannot live with their parents. But they also need to be supported to provide that care.”
You can read more about the Fostering Network’s campaign here.
27 March 2012 – Charity criticises councils as research shows they are failing vulnerable children
On Tuesday this week the charities Grandparents Plus and the Family Rights Group will jointly publish significant new research which shows that more than 45% of local authorities are failing to meet their statutory requirements towards vulnerable children living with grandparents and other relatives because their parents cannot look after them, for example because of death, serious illness or disability, drug or alcohol addiction, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
Another study, by Joan Hunt, of Oxford University, also published on Tuesday this week, shows that many of these children have experienced severe traumas and have emotional and behavioural difficulties. Yet these families face a lottery of support with more than half of local authorities failing in their statutory duty to publish a policy on family and friends care setting out clear guidelines on how financial and practical support should be provided.
The following comments from Grandparents Plus refer to these new pieces of research and are embargoed to coincide with the launch of the reports (copies of both reports are available from the Family Rights Group).
Denise Murphy, interim chief executive at Grandparents Plus, said:
“It’s shocking that so many local authorities have failed to publish a policy setting out how they will support vulnerable children in family and friends care. We have countless examples of carers who have stepped in to bring up a child who otherwise have to go into care, but who find that local authorities are unwilling to provide any support. In many cases carers have never been told about the support available. Carers feel misled, bullied and let down. It’s not unusual for a grandparent to be told that they have to give up their job or their grandchild will be taken into care, but then no support is provided. Those that do get support often have to fight every step of the way.
“We want to see the same priority given to vulnerable children living in family and friends care that the Government is currently giving to adoption.”
Beverley Field took on the full time care of grandson when he was 6 weeks old.
“It was a case of either us taking our grandson or him going into care”, says Beverley, who after a year long battle with her local authority, has finally been awarded a Special Guardianship Allowance to help with the cost of bringing her grandson. She was told repeatedly by children’s services that no help was available, even though she had to give up her own business to care for him. The council were unhelpful and obstructive, failing to inform her about support she might be entitled to. Beverley nearly lost her house, couldn’t afford any heating and was living on £53 a week for herself, her husband, her step-son and the baby. A relative told her that she should be entitled to support. “The social workers wanted to know how I found out. They were annoyed that I knew about the allowances. I was completely let down and it added to the stress we were going through.”
Click here to access the other reports.
15 March 2012 – Grandparent carers reveal Mothers Day strain
Grandparent carers and other relatives left to raise some of the UK’s most vulnerable children today reveal another side to Mother’s Day as the rest of the nation celebrates the one person missing from their homes.
The charity Grandparents Plus says Mother’s Day creates added emotional strain for thousands of grandparent carers and urges more support to help vulnerable youngsters tackle the traumas reawakened by Mother’s Day and other occasions when families traditionally get together.
200,000 grandparents and other relatives are bringing up 300,000 children in the UK because of parental death, serious illness, drug or alcohol abuse or other serious family difficulties.
- Val Watson, 66 of Hereford, is raising three grandchildren aged 8, 11 and 21. Their mother died two years ago. “We planted a tree in a favourite spot in the woods after my daughter died. We may well go up there on Mother’s Day. The day often makes me think about all the things my daughter lost out on.
“One of my grandchildren still suffers from anxiety because of the trauma.
“I find it difficult that school and Brownies make such a big thing out of Mother’s Day. It makes it quite difficult for my grandchildren. The youngest one was lulled into making a Mother’s Day card at school and then she didn’t have anyone to give it to.
“There’s a lot of hype around Mother’s Day and I’ve said at school I think it would be better if they celebrate women and men generally rather than Mother’s and Father’s Days because there are many children who are affected by these issues.”
- Grandmother Sandra Ingham, from Lancashire, started caring for her 16- year-old grandson ten years ago because of her daughter’s drug problems. “Mother’s Day and Christmas time are the worst times for us. We don’t have any contact with my daughter who is a drug addict. On Mother’s Day I feel sad for myself and sorry for my grandson.”
- Grandmother Susan Harewell (61), of Milton Keynes, took on the care of her granddaughters when their mother died five years ago. She says, “Each child gets through it in a different way. The older one kept her emotions hidden for several years. She had a lot of anger so she went for counselling with a local charity.”
Susan tries to make the day into a celebration. “Mother’s Day is quite difficult for me but you’ve got to help the children through it. We’ve always tried to keep Mum’s memory alive. We make a cake and make sure we visit their mother’s grave. We call it Mummy’s garden.”
- Christine Fleming, 55, and her husband Paul, 56, of Bexhill-on-Sea, are raising 2, 4, 6 and 9 year-old-grandchildren because of their daughter’s drug problem. Christine said: “We don’t go out for lunch or do anything on Mother’s Day because it would be too upsetting for the youngest ones and even for me. We stay in to shield the children.”
- Walthamstow grandmother and Sunday school teacher Jacqueline, 63, has been raising her granddaughter since birth. Her granddaughter needs play therapy to help her come to terms with her difficulties. Jacqueline finds Mother’s Day tough, with painful emotions aroused when leading her Sunday school class on this poignant occasion. She also spoke of her financial struggle: “A couple of times I have taken her out to a restaurant for a treat, but I told her I had a toothache so I didn’t have to spend any money on food for myself…. I get quite angry with my daughter on Mother’s Day because she can put drugs before raising her daughter”.
Around two children in every 100 are growing up in kinship care – or around seven in every primary school.
Many children being brought up by grandparents and other family members have serious emotional or behavioural problems because of the traumas they experienced. Grandparents Plus is calling for children to be offered better access to counselling, child and adolescent mental health services and other support, and for schools to be sensitive to their situation.
Denise Murphy, Interim CEO of Grandparents Plus, said: “Many children in kinship carer have suffered trauma or abuse. Yet often their carers find it hard to access the support they need. Worryingly, child and adolescent mental health services are being cut.
“Kinship carers are often reluctant to go to social workers or children’s services for help because they fear interference or even that the children may be taken into care. But they tell us that they generally find that schools and teachers are supportive and often willing to find ways to provide additional help. We want to make schools aware of our advice line for grandparents and other relatives raising children – 0300 123 7015”.
Click here to download full Press Release.
21 December 2011 – Grandparents Reveal Struggles Of Raising Youngsters At Christmas.
Thousands of grandparents are facing a tough Christmas this year as they battle the emotional, physical and financial strain of bringing festive cheer to some of the UK’s most vulnerable youngsters, a leading charity warns today.
Cash strapped grandparents who are raising their grandchildren today reveal the reality of Christmas as they struggle to make up for the absence of parents who may be dead, in prison or banned from contacting their offspring, often while coping with their own health problems and the needs of their own elderly partners.
The charity Grandparents Plus says that rising prices, benefit cuts and squeezed family budgets are putting extra strain on kinship carers this Christmas, with many forking out for other grandchildren as well as the ones they are bringing up because their parents cannot – or will not – contribute.
Denise Murphy, interim Chief Executive at Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparent carers face a real struggle all year often with no support from local authorities. Some kinship carers will reach breaking point at Christmas because that’s when all the biggest issues – lack of money, difficult relationships with parents and children’s feelings of rejection are really