20 April 2015 – Grandparents Plus Chief Executive announces departure
Sam Smethers, who has been Chief Executive of campaigning charity Grandparents Plus since 2008 has today announced that she will be leaving the charity at the end of July to take up the post of Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society.
Under Sam’s leadership Grandparents Plus has grown considerably and become a significant and influential voice in the family and children’s sectors, publishing authoritative evidence and calling for recognition for the vital role that grandparents play in children’s lives. It has also established and developed valued services for grandparents and family (kinship) carers who are raising children in the absence of parents with a peer support network reaching 6,200 and an advice and information service now advising well over 1,000 kinship carers each year. Smethers was herself brought up by her grandparents.
Sam Smethers said
“I am truly sad to be leaving Grandparents Plus and all the people in it. We have a team of amazing staff, dedicated, supportive trustees and wonderful volunteers and Network members. I have devoted the past six and a half years to building the charity and establishing it as a credible, distinctive voice in the sector. I am pleased that the charity is in a stronger position now than it has ever been. But this has only been possible because it has been a real team effort.”
15 April 2015 – Grandparents Plus welcomes pledge by Labour to consult on allowing parents to transfer unpaid parental leave to grandparents.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said
“Grandparents are the hidden army of carers in Britain today. We know that 1 in 5 working parents – 2 million of them – would give up work without grandparents to rely on. But increasingly grandparents are working too. So this policy is also a win for employers as it helps both parents and grandparents stay in work.”
Grandparents Plus regularly commissions and publishes research. It was a recent Grandparents Plus Survation poll that found that one in five working parents would give up their jobs if they didn’t have grandparents to rely on. The poll also found that a further 20 per cent would reduce their hours. Another Grandparents Plus poll in partnership with Family and Childcare Trust and Save the Children, found that 14 per cent (1.9 million) of grandparents had either given up a job, reduced their hours or taken days off sick to provide childcare.
- Grandparents Plus and Survation poll results
- Grandparents Plus, Family and Childcare Trust and Save the Children poll results
16 March 2015 – 2 million parents would give up work without grandparents’ help poll reveals
Grandparents Plus calls for unpaid leave for grandparents to prevent parents dropping out of the labour market.
Campaigning charity Grandparents Plus has today published a poll showing just how dependent on grandparents working mums and dads really are. The Survation poll finds that 1 in 5 working parents (19%) would give up work if they no longer had grandparents to rely on for childcare. With 10.8million working parents in the UK that would mean more than 2 million having to give up their jobs. The figure rises to 22% of working mums who say they would give up work and a further 20% who would reduce their hours. 15% of dads say they would give up work and a further 11% would cut back on hours.
The poll also finds:
- 6 in 10 (59%) parents agree, 1 in 4 (24%) strongly agree that it should be possible for parents to share periods of unpaid parental leave with a grandparent who may be helping with childcare
- 44% of parents who responded said they would be most likely to turn to their mum if there was a problem in their family. Overall 1 in 3 (33%) of all respondents would be most likely to turn to their mum and 10% would turn to their dad.
- 21% of parents say they would pay for childcare if they didn’t have a grandparent to rely on.
Sam Smethers said:
“1 in 3 working parents rely on grandparents for childcare but what are the political parties offering grandparents? It is often younger grandmothers who provide the intensive childcare support and they are at risk of dropping out of the labour market. But we are also seeing Granddads doing more too. If we want grandparents to work longer and care more for children we need to give them the flexibility to do it.
“Many parents don’t take all of the unpaid leave they are entitled to. But if they could share it with a grandparent this would help hard pressed working grandparents to juggle work and care and our poll shows parents back our call.
“As an increasing number of grandparents stay in work until their mid sixties and older we will see more working parents at risk of losing the childcare they rely so heavily on. This will see mothers dropping out of the labour market and our economy cannot afford that.”
Download the press release and polling tables in full below.
10 February 2015 – Grandparents Plus responds to Labour’s policy announcement on kinship care
Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Tristram Hunt MP has today committed Labour to:
- giving vulnerable children in kinship care priority school admissions – extending this to children on Special Guardianship Orders
- strengthening statutory guidance on vulnerable children so that family and friends are properly consulted and the courts and local authorities understand when and how to use Family Group Conferences
- issuing new guidance to local authorities on supporting kinship carers through support groups.
- abolishing the ‘Bedroom Tax’ which is having an adverse impact on kinship carers.
Responding to the announcement Sam Smethers Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“There are some important changes here which would make a real difference to kinship carers and the children they care for and we very much welcome them.
“But if we want to prevent children ending up in care and support them properly the new government will need to require local authorities to consider the wider family first, ensure support is based on the needs of the child not their legal status and give kinship carers similar rights and entitlements to those who adopt.”
29 December 2014 – “A towering figure has gone” – Jean Stogdon OBE has died
Grandparents Plus is today mourning the loss of Co-Chair, Co-Founder and social pioneer Jean Stogdon OBE who has died. Jean passed away on Christmas Day after a period of ill health.
Jean co-founded Grandparents Plus in 2001 with social entrepreneur Michael Young with whom she shared a belief that the role of the wider family was not sufficiently recognised, valued or supported. Together with Michael, Jean set about changing that. But tragically Michael died in 2002 so Jean had to carry Grandparents Plus forward without him.
In 2001 after Grandparents Plus was founded Michael Young wrote: “Grandparents Plus – my last and possibly my best.”
Stephen Burke, Co-Chair of Grandparents Plus said:
“Without Jean Stogdon there would have been no Grandparents Plus. The charity has put grandparents on the policy and practice agenda and is driving forward change to secure significant recognition and support for kinship carers. None of this would have happened without Jean’s leadership, energy and single-mindedness.”
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“We are all deeply saddened to lose Jean. She was a towering figure in the family sector and the social work profession and achieved national and international profile for her work.
“But above all she was a social worker at heart, a people person with huge warmth and care for everyone she met. Certainly challenging at times, but always supportive.”
You can download the press release in full below and read the Guardian obituary written by Yvonne Roberts here
7 December 2014 – Family carers discrminiated against for raising relatives’ children, survey reveals
Nearly half of the UK’s 200,000 grandparents and kinship carers who are bringing up relatives’ children in traumatic circumstances face stigma and discrimination, often from public officials, with their children bullied and excluded from activities and many carers forced to give up their jobs, according to the first survey of its kind.
The survey Disadvantage, discrimination, reslience: the lives of kinship families reveals that:
- 43% of kinship carers report having been stigmatised, discriminated against or treated rudely or differently because they are raising a relatives’ child
- Over a quarter (28%) say they have been mistreated by a social worker, and one in six (16%) say the same about teachers
- 90% say it is more challenging raising a relative’s child than raising their own. 77% of kinship carers have asked for professional help, two thirds of these did not receive the support they needed – despite 59% bringing up a child with a disability or special neeeds
- 42% have quit their job or stopped working to care for a kinship child; 46% of those who gave up work are now dependent on welfare benefits.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents and family carers are unsung heroes. They do the right thing and step in to care for chidlren, keeping them out of care, usually in very difficult circumstances and at great personal cost. Yet so many experience discrimination by social workers, teachers and other parents.”
Gloria Hunniford, who is presenting the charity’s BBC One Lifeline Appeal on Sunday 14 December said:
“When my daughter Caron died of breast cancer I wanted to do all I could to care for her young boys. The family were already living with me and continued to stay with me for some months afterwards. The truth is tragedies like this can happen to anyone
“Some of the experiences in this survey are truly heart-breaking. These famlies have been through enough trauma already. They deserve our support and understanding.”
28 November 2014– Look to the family first says new welfare reform research
Bright Blue has published new research on Conservative attitudes to welfare reform which includes the finding that Conservatives regard the family as the first port of call for welfare support and recommends the introduction of transferable leave for grandparents. Commenting on the report, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“It is not surprising that Conservatives think family should be the first line of the welfare state but in a time of austerity the challenge is twofold. What more can we do to free up families to provide that support and what do we ensure is in place for those who do not have family to rely on?”
28 November 2014 – Grandparents Plus comments on NE Lincolnshire grandparents case
Commenting on the judgement of His Honour Judge Jack in the case of two grandparents vs NE Lincolnshire local authority, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“The judge in this case strongly condemns what he regards as ‘visible bias’ displayed by social workers against two grandparents. It is extremely worrying that family carers are being treated in this way. New research we will publish shortly will for the first time reveal the extent of the discrimination and stigma that many kinship carers experience.
“But ‘naming and shaming’ social workers, as was done in this case, is not the way to improve practice and address these issues. Instead we need to invest the time and resources in kinship practice training, and ensure that we get the assessment stage right so that kinship carers can get a fair hearing and children can remain with their wider family where that is right for them.
31 October 2014 – Family Test for Government published
Commenting on the introduction of the Family Test, Sam Smethers, Chief Exectutive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents Plus strongly welcomes the Family Test which for the first time puts the role of grandparents and kinship carers at the heart of the Government’s definition of family. We know that grandparents play a significant role in supporting parents and caring for grandchildren. Now government policy should start to recognise and respond to that.”
The Family Test: Guidance for Government Departments can be found here.
14 October 2014 – “Caring for Grandchildren is Good for your health: new research”
Providing up to 15 hours a week of childcare helps maintain grandparents’ health and wellbeing, even after their previous health, social status and background are taken into account, according to a major international study of grandparents in 10 European countries, published today.
The research also found that grandparents who do not provide any childcare are more likely to experience poor health.
According to the research, by King’s College London Institute of Gerontology and Grandparents Plus:
- Grandparents who look after grandchildren for up to 15 hours a week tend to be in better health, even when prior health and socio economic background are taken into account.
- Grandparents who live with grandchildren, whether in three-generation households or raising grandchildren themselves, have the poorest health – although this poor health predates living with grandchildren.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said: “The study show that looking after your grandchildren is good for your health and wellbeing. It also shows that providing childcare is part of most grandparents’ lives – over time most grandparents at some point are looking after grandchildren.
“At a time when we are weighing up how we will meet the health and social care costs of our ageing population we should invest more in supporting and enabling those important grandparent- grandchild relationships.
“We could start by making it easier for grandparents to combine work and childcare. This would be good for parents and children – and now we know it would be good for grandparents too.”
Professor Karen Glaser from the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London who led the research, said, “The study tracked almost 30,000 grandparents over time. Even when we looked at their previous health and life experiences we found a clear relationship between looking after grandchildren and grandparental health and wellbeing. Those who provide no care have the poorest health.”
Around 50% of grandparents with grandchildren of any age provide childcare across the 10 countries in the study at any single point in time. In Britain the figure is 63% for grandparents with grandchildren aged under 16.
Although grandparents who provide more intensive care – at least 15 hours a week or daily – tend to have poorer health and are more likely to be depressed, this is linked to their previous health rather than an effect of looking after grandchildren.
Read the full report here
Read the full press release here
3 October 2014 – “I just want to be Grandma – but I can’t”
Charity marks Grandparents’ Day by calling for more volunteers across the North East
The UK charities behind a kinship carers project in the North East of England are marking Grandparents Day on Sunday 5th October by highlighting the unsung heroes – grandparents who step in to the parenting role and so can’t be ‘grandma or granddad’ to their grandchildren.
They are calling all grandparents and older people from Northumberland to Teesside, from Tyneside to Durham to become befriender volunteers in a project which offers a lifeline to grandparents and family carers in this situation.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents’ Day is a day to celebrate the huge contribution grandparents make. But we want to remember the unsung heroes – the grandparents and family carers who have had to become mum and dad in very difficult circumstances.
“Our project volunteers provide a lifeline for grandparents and other kinship carers, providing trained, one-to-one support, reducing feelings of isolation, and helping them through the many challenges they face.”
Rose, a grandmother who is providing a permanent home for her grandchild said:
“I just want to be grandma but I can’t. I stepped in to care for my grandson, Joseph, when he was two years old. Social Services asked me to care for him because his safety and welfare were at risk. If I hadn’t stepped in he would have been taken into care. He is now nearly 8 years old. I try not to differentiate between all my grandchildren, including those that don’t live with me, but it is difficult. There has been a split within the wider family because of what happened and sadly I don’t see one of my granddaughters any more.
“I became involved with Relative Experience as a befriender after one of their workers contacted me to say she thought I would make an excellent befriender because of my experience. I undertook the training and have just been matched with another kinship carer who needs support.
“To each and every kinship carer, hold your head up high and know you are doing a good job – even on the bad days”.
Read the full press release here.
More information about the Relative Experience Project can be found here.
The Relative Experience blog can found here.
2 October 2014 – “I just want to be Grandma – but I can’t”
Charity marks Grandparents’ Day by highlighting plight of unsung heroes
Campaigning charity Grandparents Plus is calling on everyone celebrating Grandparents’ Day on Sunday 5 October to remember those grandparents who are unable to fulfil the traditional role of gran and granddad because they have become their grandchild’s parent.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents tell us that they wish they could just be gran and granddad but they can’t because they have taken on the parenting role. It is really hard for them.
“We want to see these unsung heroes better supported, with similar entitlements and support to adopters. If we did we would see better outcomes for them and for the children they care for.”
Surrey grandmother, Marie Lewington who is raising her 3 year old granddaughter said:
“As a grandparent I thought I’d play a supporting role, giving advice and support when needed and looking after my granddaughter after school or at weekends. But instead I am struggling as a parent again with no support or financial help. I also have to balance my granddaughter’s emotional needs. She’s getting to the age where she asks “where’s mummy?” and there’s so much I have to explain to help her to understand why she lives with me and not mummy and daddy.”
Read the full press release here.
18th Sept 2014 – Grandparents Plus Finalists in Third Sector Awards 2014
Grandparents Plus, Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust were finalists in the ‘Charity Partnership of the Year’ in the Third Sector Awards 2014.
Grandparents Plus has joined forces with leading family charities Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust to run a new peer support project in the North East. The Relative Experience Project is based in Newcastle and offers befriending support to kinship carers across the North East who are aged 50 and over. The project had a success pilot and has secured scale-up funding from the Big Lottery Fund Silver Dreams Fund for the next three years.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, commented on the nomination: “We are really pleased that our partnership with Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust has been recognised. It is a partnership that has allowed us to develop our services and reach more grandparents and kinship carers than we would have been able to reach independently.
“We were up against other strong partnerships and although we didn’t win on the night it was great to see our work recognised in this way.”
Further details about the Relative Experience Project can be found here.
19th August 2014 – Prime Minister signals that thousands of ‘unsung heroes’ could get same rights to leave as parents
Speaking at a Relationships Alliance event on 18th August in response to a question from Grandparents Plus Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, the Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“You do see grandparents sometimes effectively stepping in and bringing up children and of course under the rules they don’t get quite the same set of rights as others. What you are saying is if you can extend to adoptive parents things that birth parents have in terms of rights, couldn’t you do that for grandparents?
“That is something I am very happy to look at in terms of manifesto, and we have got some Conservative MPs here who have got some responsibility for giving me ideas on that front, so I am sure they will take note of it.”
Speaking afterwards Sam Smethers said:
“This is a significant response by the Prime Minister and a very welcome acknowledgement of the parallel with adopters in terms of the need for support and entitlements. We will be following this up to turn this in to a concrete commitment for the manifesto and beyond and working with all the political parties to secure real and lasting change for kinship carers and their families.”
15th July 2014 – “We take care of kids in crisis too” – Kinship carers gather in Westminster to demand equal rights to adopters – public backs charity’s call for paid leave for family carers
Grandparents Plus is bringing over 50 grandparents and family carers from across England and Wales today for a summit with the Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson MP and other MPs and peers to challenge the Government on their treatment of kinship carers who are bringing up children as a result of extremely difficult family circumstances.
The summit #timetocare about kinship care is held as the charity publishes new poll findings to show the public overwhelmingly supports their call for grandparents and family carers who give a permanent home to children to be entitled to the same employment rights as adopters which would give them paid leave for the first time with 76% in support, 41% strongly supporting.
Find out more about #timetocare
8th July 2014 – 1.9 million cut working hours to look after grandchildren – grandparents step in to care as costs rise and work pressures increase
Nearly 2 million grandparents have given up a job, reduced their hours or taken time off work to care for grandchildren according to an Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by Grandparents Plus, Save the Children and the Family and Childcare Trust.
With national childcare costs rising by 27% over the last five years, the poll reveals that grandparent are making significant time and financial contributions towards their grandchildren’s upbringing, with 12% estimating they have spent over £1,000 a year on their grandchildren, and further 17% giving between £500 and £1,000.
These figures suggest that grandparents have given a total of £8 billion in the past year to pay for a range of grandchildren’s needs. Those who provide the most care are also the ones most likely to provide financial support.
The poll Time to care: generation generosity under pressurefound strong support among grandparents and the public for the extension of workers’ rights, currently available to parents, so that grandparents can look after their grandchildren and remain in work.
According to the Ipsos Mori poll:
- 14% of grandparents – or around 1.9 million people say they have reduced working hours, given up a job or taken time off in annual or sick leave to care for a grandchild at some point in their lives – 19% (or 1.45million) of grandmonthers and 8% (or 450,000) grandfathers
- 40% of grandparents who look after their grandchldren – approximately 2.3million people – say they do so to allow the child’s parents to get to work and 17% – nearly 1 million – do so because parents cannot afford childcare
- 64% of grandparents who look after their grandchildren support an entitlement to unpaid leave from work to care for a sick grandchild and 56% support unpaid leave to help parents with childcare
- 59% of the wider public support grandparental leave to look after a sick grandchild, and 51% support unpaid leave for childcare.
- 7 in 10 (69%) grandparents say the financial, practical and caring contribution they make is not recognised.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents are a hidden army of carers – giving a lifeline to parent who need to get back to work and who often cannot afford childcare. They need our recognition and support. The poll shows millions have cut their hours, taken time off or days off sick or stopped working altogether to take the pressure off their own children.
“This is generation generosity in action. In addition to the care they provide, grandparents are making huge financial contributions to support their grandchildren. It suggests we need to re-think the working requirements of the ageing population, who are being expected to work longer and care more for grandchildren. This simply isn’t sustainable.”
Director of UK Poverty at Save the Children, Will Higham said,
“The failure of all parties to tackle the cost of childcare has conscripted a gran and granddads’ army to pick up the pieces. The reality is that many parents struggling on low incomes are being priced out of using formal childcare and have no option but to give up work, or rely on friends and family.”
You can download a copy of the press release and poll findings together with the Grandparents Plus Time to care: balancing work and care in later life, an agenda for change below.
30th June 2014 – Working grandparents could be winners with new right to request flexible working
Commenting on the introduction of a new right to request flexible working for all employees, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparents Plus strongly welcomes this change. The extension of the right to request flexible working to all has the potential to drastically improve the lives of the millions of grandparents who are juggling work and providing childcare for their grandchildren.
“The key is how it works in practice as we fear that many employers won’t implement it properly. Grandparents tell us what they really need is an entitlement to leave, as they don’t feel confident their employer will give them flexible working.”
You can find out more about the new flexible working rights here and find ACAS advice pages here
30th May 2014 – Kinship carers’ ‘Bedroom tax’ Judicial Review case
Commenting on the Judicial Review judgement in the case of grandparent carers, Paul and Susan Rutherford in which they lost their case, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“Grandparent carers like the Rutherfords are raising children in extremely difficult circumstances. Children who are often traumatised by their experiences or who have severe disabilities or special needs. It makes no sense for them to be hit by the Spare Room Subsidy when they are saving the taxpayer millions of pounds in care costs alone.
“Rather than penalising carers the benefits system should be supporting them.”
For more information about the Rutherford’s case please see the CPAG website here
25th April 2014- Department for Education new HR policy recognises kinship carers
Commenting on the publication of the new DfE HR policy, Sam Smethers Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“It is good to see the DfE leading the way in Whitehall with an HR policy that now explicitly recognises and supports kinship carers alongside foster carers. We hope other departments and public bodies will soon follow suit so that this can become standard prctice and build on what the DfE is now offering.
“We know that 47% give up work when they take on the care of a child, many are plunged into poverty and become dependent on benefits. It is time to give kinship carers at work the recognition they need so that they do not have to give up their job. Sp we are calling for a period of adjustment leave, similar to the DfE’s special leave when a child first comes to live with a kinship carer, followed by a period of paid leave, equivalent to adoption leave if the arrangement becomes permanent.”
You can read the DfE press release here
22nd April 2014 – Children and Families Act is a missed opportunity says Grandparents Plus
Commenting on reforms to the Family Justice System that comes in to force today, introduced in the Children and Families Act, Chief Executive Sam Smethers said:
“This legislation represents a missed opportunity for children and families. Government should have taken the opportunity to require local authorities to consider the wider family first, before placing a child with stanger foster carers or placing them on the path to adoption. Instead the risk is that family members could be squeezed out of the process.
“Children have a right to a family life which means their wider family should be properly considered if they cannot live with their parents. Research shows that outcomes for children in kinship care tend to be good. So if we are serious about putting children first then we should put kinship first and invest in support for those families.”
1st March 2014 – Grandparent Carers in North East receive a Dream Lottery Funding Boost
The Relative Experience Project which has been piloted by Grandparents Plus, Family Lives and the Family and Childcare Trust and provides peer befriending support for kinship carers aged over 50 has been successful in securing over £1million of Big Lottery Fund investment over the next 3 years from the Silver Dreams Fund. Commenting on the news Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“We are delighted! With the support of the silver Dreams Fund we will now be able to help many more grandparents and family carers who face the challenge of raising children in extremely difficult circumstances.
“Carers in this situation often experience isolation and depression and don’t know where to get help. A befriender can give them the emotional and practical support they need.”
You can read the Big Lottery Fund press release here
You can find out more about the Relative Experience Project here
27th February 2014 – Grandparents Plus welcomes TUC report on older women at work
Commenting on the report published by the TUC today Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“This major new report shows that women over 50 face multiple penalties for caring for their families. Yet without their caring contribution many parents would not be able to work and many older relatives would face expensive social care or face life unsupported.
“The time has come for us to respond to the reality of working life today and create periods of grandparental leave and adjustment leave so that older women and men can combine work and care.”
You can find the press release and download a copy of the TUC report here
Hundreds of grandparents and family (kinship) carers across the country are joining forces to take care of a very special guest. Kristopher the Kinship bear is being driven all over the country to raise awareness and much needed funds for the 200,000 grandparent and family carers raising up to 300,000 children in the UK.
On each leg of his journey he is being looked after by a different kinship carer – representing the love and care that they provide for children every day, who because of family tragedies cannot live with their parents.
Many of the children living in kinship care have experienced the same multiple adversities as children in the care system (bereavement, disability, mental ill health, parental domestic violence, alcohol or drug misuse, imprisonment or a combination of factors). Yet they do not receive the same support as children with ‘looked after’ status’. This is despite statutory guidance which states that support should be based on the needs of the child.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus said:
“This is a really lovely way of spreading the word about kinship care and reaching people who may never have asked themselves the question – if a parent cannot look after their child, who steps in?”
“If we couldn’t look after our own children we would want a relative or friend, someone they know or have a connection with to provide that care if at all possible. But carers in that situation desperately need help and support.”
You can follow Kristopher’s travels on Twitter @kinshipted
For further information contact Sam Martin on 020 8981 8001
17th December 2013 – Nearly 7 million grandparents provide regular childcare says TUC
Nearly 7 million grandparents provide regular childcare for their grandchildren aged under 16, with the most popular reason being to allow the child’s parents to work, according to a new poll released today (Tuesday) by the TUC.
Commenting on the poll TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The informal childcare provided by grandparents allows mums and dads to work, saves them money on nursery fees and creates a special bond across different generations in a family.
“But with more people than ever before working in to their late 60s, millions of grandparents are selflessly taking on childcare responsibilities for a second time.”
“It’s important that public policy catches up with the needs of working grandparents and their families. A new right to unpaid leave would be a great way to get more working grandparents involved in childcare, and at very little cost to the employer.”
Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, Sam Smethers added:
“Family life is changing and it’s time that government and employers caught up. Grandparents are picking up the strain that families are under and providing an increasing amount of childcare. But they are under pressure themselves, working longer and struggling to combine paid work with caring.
“We risk a childcare gap emerging – with parents paying the price – if grandparents cannot afford to reduce their hours or can’t get the flexibility they need. The solution is a period of grandparental leave and an investment in formal childcare.”
You can read the TUC press release in full here.
6th December 2013 – “You don’t have to walk alone”: Liverpool grandmother calls for better rights for kinship carers
Grandmother Janet Brown yesterday joined over 70 other grandparents and relatives bringing up children – known as kinship carers – at an event at the legendary Anfield Stadium, organised by Grandparents Plus and local support groups. They were able to attend parenting workshops and get the chance to meet others in the same situation on the day.
Janet, aged 58, took on the full time care of her twin baby granddaughters in 2003 because her teenage daughter was unable to cope. “I felt so alone. I was left to juggle a full time job with being the main carer for two lovely little girls,’’ said Janet. The twins are now 10 and well settled with Janet.
“Janet’s story is heroic, but there are thousands of grandparents just like Janet in Liverpool and the North West. Our message to them is ‘you are not alone’ and what better place than Anfield to say that loud and clear,” said Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus.
The Anfield event was supported by Liverpool City Council Assistant Director for Children’s Services, Bernie Brown who also spoke on the day.
Read the full press release here.
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