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Grandparents in the middle

Times Report on Grandparents

At the Oxford Institute of Ageing, several studies have been undertaken on the pressures being levied on men and particularly women in their fifties and sixties in Britain's new multigenerational families. One study of 1,000 single mothers showed that, while 75 per cent of grandmothers had provided supplementary childcare for their grandchildren, very few wanted to do this full time or do more than pick them up after school, give them supper and oversee homework.

The problem, according to Professor Sarah Harper, who carried out the research, is that, as the Government emphasises that more care should be made available in the community, the family is again hit. Women in their fifties who want to remain in the labour market are being increasingly pulled in two directions, to look after their grandchildren and parents.

“It's difficult to say we're reaching crisis point, because people are very adaptable,” says Professor Harper. “But last year, we found in our study, The Future of Retirement, that people aged 60 to 79 years were contributing around £4 billion a year in voluntary work - and saving the country between £11 billion and £50 billion by looking after their families.

“Given the pensions crisis, these people often need to stay in the labour market to provide for their retirement, so the balance between work and care is becoming a real work-life question.”