Grandparents are risking financial hardship by taking time out of work to provide free childcare for their grandchildren, a new survey has claimed.
Research commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the charity Grandparents Plus, found that grandmothers of working age who are on a low income were the most likely to give up work or reduce their hours to care for grandchildren.
One in three families rely on grandparents to provide some kind of childcare on a weekly basis, with that figure rising to more than half amongst single-parent families, as the cost of formal childcare has become too steep during bleak economic times.
However, almost two-thirds of grandmothers are now living on low household incomes, leaving a gaping hole in the employment market for the over 50’s.
The researchers of the report, Protect, Support, Provide, said the contribution grandparents made to their grandchildren's lives had been "underestimated and under-recorded" in the past.
Kay Carberry, Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "The contribution of grandparents cannot be ignored. Without the free childcare they give, many parents would not be able to work. This is particularly important in low income families that may find it difficult to pay for childcare."
The report also found that ethnic minority households are most likely to have a grandparent, child and grandchild all living under the same roof, often leading to an expectation that grandparents would take on high levels of childcare.
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, added: "It's time the government recognised that grandparents provide the last line of defence between millions of children and that poverty line. They need recognition and better emotional, financial and practical support."
To make life easier for grandparents, and to prevent a generational gap developing in the employment sector, groups are calling on the government to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, ensuring grandparents do not have to take early retirement in order to support their family.