Grandparent crisis costs £4,000 per family
Couples face large bills for childcare if pandemic stops their own mothers and fathers babysitting
PARENTS will have to pay almost £4,000 extra a year if grandparents are no longer able to help out with childcare due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost half of all parents (43pc) rely on grandparents for childcare yet more than a quarter are not counting on support from friends and family in the wake of Covid-19, according to a report by Lloyds Bank. It found that earlier in 2020 grandparents were looking after children for nine hours a week on average – up from eight hours a week in 2019. The average hourly pay for a childminder or nanny is just over £8 an hour, meaning that parents save almost £73 a week, or £3,770 a year, by relying on their own parents rather than a professional.
Missing out on this support even just over a six-week summer holiday would mean parents having to spend £438 extra on childcare.
If parents are no longer able to rely on grandparents to look after children for nine hours a week, the most likely scenario is that one parent will cut down their working hours instead. There are approximately 6.3 million families with dependent children where all parents are in work, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Mothers are generally more likely to cut down their hours to look after children. The cost to the economy if 6.3 million women worked nine fewer hours per week would be £682m per week, or £32.7bn per year over 48 working weeks. That is based on the median hourly pay for a woman (£12.02).
Megan Jarvie of Coram Family and Childcare, a charity, said: “At the moment many families are being squeezed on several fronts: they are struggling to find a place with a nursery or childminder, employers are expecting them back at work, and many find that care with grandparents is not possible.”
She added that, for some, relying on grandparents was not a choice but the only workable option.
Parents’ problems are being exacerbated as childcare costs have shot up in recent years. The average monthly spend on childcare is now £395 – an increase of 13pc from last year, Lloyds found. This means the cost of hiring someone to look after children is fast outstripping the increase in parents’ salaries and risks making it unsustainable for many of them to remain in work.
Sarah Harrison, 31 from Wolverhampton, usually relies on her and her husband’s parents to help care for her two-year-old daughter and five-yearold son. However, she is no longer able to do so, as the grandparents have decided to continue shielding. She is currently on furlough from her job in hospitality but said that once she is called back she will have to double the amount she spends on her daughter’s nursery fees.
“The grandparents used to take her and my son for two days a week; they would go to nursery for two days and I would be around for one.
“Luckily my son is now starting school but my daughter will now need to go to nursery for four days a week,” Mrs Harrison said.
She currently pays £104 a week for her daughter’s nursery fees, which will increase to £208. “Even when I go back to work, I’ll probably be doing the same hours but on a reduced wage, as the hospitality industry is still having a tough time,” Mrs Harrison added.