Page last updated at 00:12 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 01:12 UK

Carer grandparents 'face poverty'

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News

Helping the elderly
Younger grandparents become unpaid carers to two generations

Younger grandparents caring for their grandchildren and their own elderly parents are increasingly being caught in a poverty trap, a charity has said.

A third of grandparents in the UK aged under-55 are struggling financially, according to Grandparents Plus.

Its report includes research showing an increase in such "gran-carers" living alone and on low incomes.

The report "challenges the cosy image we have of the retired grandparent," said the charity's head, Sam Smethers.

The report, the Poor Relation?, describes an "invisible generation" caught between the demands of their children, their children's children and their own parents.


In these four and five-generation families, single, working-class grandmothers in particular can find themselves in a cycle of living on a low income while acting as unpaid carers.

"For many, particularly the 'gran-carers' who are of working age, on low incomes and who provide most of the childcare, it's a real struggle," Ms Smethers said.

"They get no help with the challenge of combining work and care. As a result we see them taking low-paid, part-time work or dropping out of the labour market altogether," she said.

While the overall trend is for women to become mothers later in life - pushing back the age at which people become grandparents - this report highlights another group of families at the other end of the age range.

There are 1.5 million grandparents under the age of 50 - with younger grandparents more likely to come from less affluent families.

The report says that single younger grandparents, typically lone grandmothers, are particularly likely to be financially overstretched - three times more so than those with partners.

The research shows that the number of single grandparents has doubled in a decade - and the number of grandparents on low incomes has risen by a third.

The single children of young grandparents will be particularly dependent - with half of such single parents relying on grandparents to provide childcare.

The charity wants carer grandparents to be able to work flexibly in the way that parents can - and to have "granny leave" when a grandchild is born.

It also wants grandparents to be eligible for payment for childcare through tax credits if it allows their children to work.

"Although overall the grandparent generation is getting older, it is younger, working-class grandparents who are more likely to suffer financial hardship.

"We want this reality to be recognised by paying grandparents through the tax credit system for the childcare they provide," Ms Smethers said.

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