By Nigel Pankhurst
Many families rely on grandparents to provide childcare
Charity Grandparents Plus has called for big changes in the way grandparents who look after their grandchildren while the parents are at work are treated.
Payments through tax credits and "granny holidays" if they are in work are just two of the suggestions made in a report.
Lorraine Green is typical of many grandparents - while the parents are at work she is the one with the responsibility of looking after the grandchildren.
Lorraine takes on the parental role from about 7.30am to 5.30pm, five days a week. She takes Emily, eight, and Michael, four, to school and picks them up, and has two-year-old James all day.
The 60-year-old from Brierley Hill, West Midlands, says there is simply no alternative for her daughter and son-in-law - and that the situation is far from uncommon.
"They're not in a position financially to pay out for childcare. If you go up to the school the vast majority of people picking people up are grandparents," she said.
"They're both in work but the way the situation is, there's no way of them giving up work. There's no other way round it. I have to do what I do."
And while Lorraine is happy to take on the task for the sake of her family, she says it is not without its drawbacks.
"There's no chance I could get a job. I do make time for other things outside the family but it does have a big effect on your time and it's an added expense that we've taken on - we have to feed the children and so on - but we don't begrudge what we do," she said.
Grandparents Plus, a charity that aims to promote the role of grandparents in children's lives, has expressed its concern about what it says is a lack of financial support for those relatives who take on such a role.
It says grandparents are taking an increasing part in the care of their grandchildren, especially as the economic downturn continues to bite.
Lorraine agrees with the charity that the contribution of grandparents is undervalued and often goes unrecognised.
'Taken for granted'
She said: "I think all grandparents should have some remuneration for caring for their grandchildren.
"Without what they do there would be a lot more parents claiming benefits, because they would have to look after their children instead of working.
"I do feel aggrieved about that but I wouldn't have it any other way because I don't want my grandchildren to suffer.
"Grandparents definitely feel undervalued and unrecognised. I do believe we're taken for granted by the government and society in general."
And Lorraine believes something must be done to give what she sees as a fairer deal for grandparents.
She said: "I would like to see some sort of legislation whereby grandparents are recognised and given the same sort of remuneration as foster parents because we're doing the same sort of job."