Being a grandparent child-carer means big emotional, financial demands

Grandparents may need emotional and financial support too.

For grandparents, it can be a pleasure and a privilege to spend more time with grandchildren, while also offering a helping hand to their families as they juggle work and home life.

As those demands grow, though, many believe there should be more support for grandparents who regularly provide unpaid child care – both financial AND emotional support.

But others argue it’s a task a grandparent should take on solely for love, with financial recompense turning it into merely another ‘job’. So what do you think?

According to census data released in August 2017, about 5.2million Australians said they provided unpaid childcare during the two weeks before the census itself, with 1.3 million doing it for adult children other than their own, The Australian reported at the time.

The newspaper reported that the age groups most likely to offer childcare for someone else’s adult children were from their late 50s and mid-70s. The peak is around age 67, when 19 per cent of the population reported providing unpaid care.

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It’s probably because those under 50 are unlikely to have grandchildren yet, while their kids may be grown up. Meanwhile, those well over 70 usually have older grandchildren who no longer need care.

Read more: Kids spending time with grandparents could be better for society

A UnitingCare Queensland Child and Family Services spokesperson told Starts at 60 that grandparent child-carers’ support needs were connected both to the age of the child or children being cared for, as well as the carers’ personal situation.

“As each family is unique, there may not be a ‘best form’ of support for grandparents and grand-families, and where one family needs more financial support, another may prefer services and emotional support,” the spokesperson said.

In New Zealand, one in four young children were cared for by grandparents in 2017, Stats NZ revealed over the New Year.

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“The majority of informal care for kids was done by grandparents, almost triple the next largest category,” Stats NZ’s labour market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said at the time. “Most informal care is unpaid for, and grandparents play a crucial role in allowing parents to juggle work and study. These results resonate with me personally, as I’m grateful for the role grandparents have played in raising my children.”

Meanwhile in Britain, surveys recently found grandparents were running up debts looking after grandchildren, the BBC reported. The data found nearly 200,000 children in the country were raised by a family member other than their parents – with responsibility largely falling on grandparents.

Read more: The simple thing grandparents can do to make kids less anxious

UnitingCare Queensland is now offering a Time for Grandparents (TFG) program, supporting more than 1,000 grandparents by providing them with information and respite when they’re caring for children. From therapeutic family weekends away to activities for grandchildren and information sessions for grandparents, the program encourages new friendships, and offers support when carers are struggling – both emotionally and financially.

The spokesperson said: “Grandparents who are raising grandchildren who need further support can contact TFG directly at 1300 135 500 to have a confidential conversation to discuss their support options.”

The government currently offers support options for grandparents who are primary carers, as well as options for those who “care for a child at least 35 per cent of the time”, but the level of support can depend on a number of factors. For more information, visit the human services website here.

Do you care for grandchildren on a regular basis? Do you think there is a need for more support, both financially and emotionally?