Grand­par­ent cri­sis costs £4,000 per fam­ily

Cou­ples face large bills for child­care if pan­demic stops their own moth­ers and fa­thers babysit­ting

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Mar­i­anna Hunt

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.

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