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Billion pound grannies

The rise of the billion pound grannies 


Are you a hands-on grandparent, regularly taking over the childcare for working parents? According to new research from Abbey National, today’s grandparents are spending more time than ever before with their grandchildren  ---  

  • In the past two generations the number of children cared for by grandparents has jumped from just one in three (33 %) to a massive 82 %.

  • The hours clocked up by today’s grannies and grandpas tot up to more than 1 billion a year in would-be babysitting fees for working parents.

  • The proportion of children cared for on a regular basis (every week or two or once a month) has leapt from just 6% to 46% in the past two generations (since the late 1930s).

  • Time spent by grandmothers with grandchildren under 12 is at least 40 days a year, for an average of an hour and a half each occasion. 

  • Grandad also does his bit - although not quite as patiently - spending an average of 79 minutes with his grandchildren.

  • Grandparents involved in childcare are almost twice as likely to be given lifts by their children (65 % versus 34 %) and almost twice as likely to be taken on holiday with the family (32 % versus 18 %) or given financial help (31 % versus 18 %) than grandparents who don’t lend a helping hand. 


Today’s grandparents are more satisfied with their life than any other life-stage in society (only the short-lived youthful enthusiasm of 15 year-olds comes anywhere close). And Abbey National’s findings reveal today’s grandparents (over 50s) account for 42% of all money spent on leisure. By 2020 it is predicted this will rise to more than half (53%).   

Despite grandparents providing childcare for free  (and many in the 65+ age group are much more likely to see it as a moral duty), the majority of the nation feels that the government should provide financial support for grandparenting services.  Almost two-thirds of the population (64%) agree that a government subsidy should be offered to grandparents who are involved in regular childcare.

The above findings are taken from a report – Complicated Lives III – commissioned by Abbey National from the Future Foundation. NOP conducted more than 1010 interviews with adults aged 18 and above in June 2002. The NOP sample was designed to be representative of adults in Great Britain.


*Calculating the value of grandparent childcare:

  • The  average child under-12 (of whom there are 8.8 million currently in the UK) is looked after on 40 days per year by a grandparent or great-grandparent.

  • This contribution to childcare is worth some 1,041,852,000.

Grandparents’ reward for helping out with babysitting duty



Taken for meal







Taken on holiday

Helped financially

Don't baby-sit















Do baby-sit















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