Hilary Osborne reported in the Guardian a few days ago that grandparents are increasingly looking after their grandchildren and incurring loss of income as a result of this. Grandparents have a lot to contribute to enrich the lives of young people and their role in child development has been amply documented. Grandparent’s involvement in childcare is a sure sign of the strength of the extended family unit and is a clear example of intergenerational solidarity. All of these things are extremely positive.
However the “Protect, Support, Provide” Report commissioned by Grandparents Plus and the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that grandparent’s involvement in childminding is more likely to occur in lower income families, ethic minority families, single parent families or where there are disabled family members. It is more than likely given the child poverty conditions in Scotland as mentioned in the “Growing up in Scotland” report that the situation detailed above is happening in Scotland as much as in the rest of the UK. The Scottish Ministers’ vision for children as expressed in the Charter for Grandchildren mentions a number of professionals that are responsible for helping children grow up as responsible, healthy, happy human beings. The list includes not just professionals, but also parents and grandparents.
In 2009 the Treasury estimated that 45,000 people were looking after their grandchildren mostly for free, therefore saving the taxpayer around £3.9 billion per year. The government seems to have a clear recognition of the contributions financially and socially that grandparents bring to their families and to society at large through the nurturing of our young. Should it therefore not encourage and reward their efforts financially beyond the promised credits for the basic state pension scheduled to start in April 2011?