Grandparents provide £33 billion of free childcare

Article date: 28 March 2011

Millions of grandparents are taking on the role of ‘second mum and dad’ to their grandchildren, helping out with everything from childcare to cooking family meals.

New research from Aviva suggests that around half of all UK grandparents - 7 million people(1) - now look after their grandchildren and help around the house while mums and dads work. Of these, 99.5% do so without pay. The study shows that on average, each grandparent will care for two children for around 13 hours a week. With equivalent childminding costs standing at almost £2,400(2) per child annually, this amounts to an estimated saving of more than £33 billion(3) for UK parents each year.

However, these ‘grand-helpers’ are feeling the pressure as a result of their kindness:

  • 32% feel guilty if they ever say 'no' to looking after their grandchildren
  • 30% actually cancel their own plans to mind their young charges
  • 23% feel taken for granted at times
  • One in eight (13%) feel financially worse-off as a result of looking after their grandchildren
  • One in 20 say they would like to do more paid work but can’t because of childminding duties.

And with Aviva data showing that 68% of people(4) in the UK plan to work beyond the standard retirement age it is possible that future grandparents won’t be available to offer the same level of support.

However, on a more positive note the vast majority of grandparents see clear emotional benefits to helping out their families:

  • 88% feel closer to their grandchildren because of the time they spend with them
  • 59% say they are more patient with their grandchildren than they were with their own children

Louise Colley, head of protection marketing for Aviva says: “It’s great to see so many grandparents involved in the lives of their families, but it’s a worry to see that some are financially worse off as a result. With grandparents already feeling squeezed, it’s vital that mums and dads take time to think about what would happen if they weren’t around to look after their own children.

“We know from our research that the cost of raising a child to age 21 is more than £270,000,(5) yet we’re also aware that 93%(6) of UK families feel under-protected financially. So while it’s not something people like to think about, it’s crucial parents have life insurance in place just in case the worst happens and grandparents are left holding the baby – and all the costs this entails.”

In addition to childminding, grandparents’ help extends to:

  • 15% help out financially with occasional household bills
  • 28% regularly do the school run
  • 26% cook occasional meals for the family
  • 33% help grandchildren with their hobbies
  • 13% assist with gardening.


If you are a journalist who requires further information, please contact:

Sarah Poulter: Aviva Press Office: 01904 452828: 07800 691596:

All data is taken from Aviva’s 'Family Duties' study compiled by unless stated otherwise. 1,079 UK grandparents were questioned between the dates of 11 and 16 March 2011.

(1) The Grandparents' Association states there are currently 14 million grandparents in the UK.
(2) The average yearly expenditure for 25 hours childminding care per week for a child under two stands at £4670 for parents in England. Based on this cost, the equivalent expenditure for 12.7 hours is £2372.36.
(3) Equation based on cost of 12.7 hours of childcare (see note 2) for two children, multiplied by 7 million grandparents (= 33,213,040,000), multiplied by 99.5% (proportion of people who do not get paid for childcare) = £33,046,974,800.

(4) The Aviva Real Retirement Report, May 2010.
(5) Aviva ‘Cost of a Child’ study carried out by February 2011.
(6) Aviva Family Finances Report: January 2011.

Notes to editors:

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in ten cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva’s global Street to School programme is working in partnership with Railway Children in the UK to get children living on the streets back intoeducation and everyday life. Find out more at

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009

**Source: ABI data released August 2010

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