Your Family

UK Grandparents Provide the Real 'Child Benefit'?

UK grandparents are saving families £1,830 each year in childcare costs, the latest research from over 50s insurance provider RIAS reveals today1. This equates to a £10.7 billion unofficial ‘child benefit’ for UK families, with grandparents providing hours of free childcare2.

Almost half (49%) of grandparents are also financially contributing an eye watering £1,701 per year towards grandchild’s upbringing – an increase of 58% in the last 12 months alone.

The '21st Century Grandparenting' report, now in its third year, reveals that 5.8 million grandparents in the UK (47%) regularly provide childcare for their grandchildren3. On average, grandparents now spend an average of 10 hours every week looking after their grandchildren, an increase on the average of nine hours a week in 2010. Virtually none of the grandparents who provide regular childcare (just 3%) receive any formal payment for their time.

Grandparents provide vital ongoing support

This annual saving of £1,830 for families by grandparents – almost three-quarters (73%) more than the yearly £1,056 Child Benefit payment currently received for one child (£20.30 per week) – is the vital support families require in the uncertain financial climate, especially in light of the move to axe Child Benefit for higher-rate tax payers from 20134.

Over 3 million grandparents who regularly provide childcare (26%) say it has significantly increased over the last 12 months. The major factors for this rise include parents having to return to work (28% of grandparents agree with this), parents working longer hours (27%), and increasingly expensive formal childcare costs (20%).

Sarah Howe, Marketing Director at RIAS, comments: “With the cost of childcare rising by almost 5% this year, in line with inflation at 5.2%, grandparents have continued to step in to support working parents5. The knock-on effects of parents having to return to work, working longer hours, and rising childcare costs mean that grandparents are providing a fundamental and crucial benefit to families – a trend that we’ve seen over the last few years.”

Busy grandparents generous with cash and time

And it’s not just free childcare that today’s grandparents are providing for their grandchildren. One quarter of grandparents (24%) who regularly provide childcare also help pay for formal childcare costs too, like nurseries and childminders, to the tune of an average amount of £84 each year.

The research this year also shows an increase in the average financial contribution grandparents give to their grandchildren and purchases they have made on their behalf. Almost half (49%) of grandparents regularly contribute financially towards their grandchildren, with an average monthly bill of £142 – an eye-watering £1,701 each year per grandchild. This increased contribution includes £369 a year towards ‘one off’ large purchases, like a laptop or driving lessons, as well as an average of £293 towards holidays each year, per grandchild.

Well-known broadcaster and grandparent, Janet Ellis, comments: “I’m a very proud grandmother and love spending time with my grandchildren. I do it because I love it but I also know that Sophie (Ellis-Bextor) really appreciates all the help and time I can give. With a new baby on the way for Sophie and her husband, I know there will be even more of an opportunity for me to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in – I can’t wait! This report from RIAS really shows that millions of grandparents feel the same and will do anything to help out when their families need them. This contribution is so important and should be celebrated.”

Giving grandparents across the UK

Grandparents in Wales, Scotland and the North East of England provide the most amount of childcare than any other regions in the UK, with 12 hours each week. London-based grandparents save their families the most money because of the high cost of childcare in the capital, with grandparents saving London families £2,413 a year on average. Not only that, they also contribute the most financially towards the upbringing of their grandchildren, with a generous annual sum of £2,342 each year per grandchild in financial support.

Sarah Howe continues: “The introduction of National Insurance credits in April 2011 towards the state pension of grandparents who look after grandchildren – the same as a stay-at-home mum would – is a reassuring step in the right direction to recognise the huge support that grandparents give to today’s working parents. Both grandparents and grandchildren benefit enormously from spending more time with each other but it’s great for the grandparents to be rewarded for their contribution to busy family lives. RIAS recognises this and recently sponsored the inaugural Yours Grandparent of the Year Awards 2011, which showed the unrivalled love, support and commitment today’s grandparents give to their families.”

1Research commissioned by RIAS and carried out by Opinium between 27 – 29 June 2011. Total sample size was 2,135 grandparents aged over 50 with at least one grandchild. The survey was carried out online.

2On average grandparents spend 10 hours each week providing childcare, which equates to a weekly cost of £35.20, and an annual cost of £1830.40 (based on The Daycare Trust’s 2011 figures of the hourly cost of an over 2s childminder of £3.52). The total annual cost of 5.8 million grandparents providing unpaid childcare is £ 10,670,006,719.

3In 2011 there were an estimated 21,905,000 people aged 50 or older living in the United Kingdom (source: ONS Population Projections, 2011). 57% of the over 50s population are grandparents, equating to 12,402,831 people. Of these grandparents, 47% provide free childcare for their grandchildren on a regular basis, equating to 5,829,330 grandparents.


5 CPI annual inflation stands at 5.2 per cent in September 2011.

6 Breakdown of types of items and grandparents’ annual contribution:


Annual contribution
per grandchild







Leisure & Recreation


Pocket money




Education inc university






‘One off’ large purchases






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