A report published today by childcare charity Daycare Trust has shattered the traditional image of grandparent carers, revealing a greater gender balance than previously thought, and a generation of ‘super-grandparents’ combining employment with childcare responsibilities.

The research, which is the first part of the organisation’s Big Lottery funded project ‘Informal Childcare: Choice or Chance?’ , has also underlined the crucial childcare role that grandparents, other relatives and friends play in keeping the labour market functioning and the economy going.

Key findings:

. Seven million adults in the UK -14 per cent of the adult population — regularly provide informal childcare.

. Over half of parents use some informal childcare, with 36 per cent of families using grandparents for this care. Four million grandparent carers in the UK provide an average 10 hours of childcare each per week.

. A generation of youthful ‘super grandparents’, typically aged 55-64 and often still in employment themselves, are most likely to regularly care for their grandchildren.

. 40 per cent of grandparent carers are male, showing that grandfathers play a much larger role than previously thought.

. By far the largest reason (56 per cent) that parents reported using informal childcare was to enable them to work. The high cost of formal childcare (such as nurseries and childminders), was the biggest factor in parents choosing family and friends, but issues relating to trust were also important.

. Use of informal childcare varies significantly by region. Some 68 per cent of parents in Scotland have relied on relative care in the last six months, compared to just 27 per cent in London.

. There is little demand among grandparents for financial reward for providing childcare. However, Daycare Trust recommends a greater involvement of grandparent carers at Sure Start Children’s Centres, and more resources for them to support their grandchildren’s learning and development.

Anand Shukla, acting Chief Executive of Daycare Trust said:

“Friends and family play a huge role in providing childcare, and our economy and society are reliant on this hidden army of informal carers.

However, far too often the role they play is overlooked. Daycare Trust is calling for increased recognition of grandparents and others providing informal childcare. We want to see these carers integrated properly into formal childcare structures, through specific grandparent sessions at Sure Start Children’s Centres and the roll out of home learning materials so that parents are enabled to work, carers comprehensively supported, and every child is ensured the best start in life.

This research also confirms our belief that formal childcare must be made more affordable, so that parents can choose childcare based on what is best for their child and themselves, rather than being constrained by financial factors.”


Daycare Trust defines informal childcare as ‘childcare that is largely unregistered by the state for quality control, child protection and/or taxation purposes’.

Daycare Trust has been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund to conduct a two year study, ‘Informal Childcare: Choice or Chance?’ which seeks to map use of informal childcare in the UK, examining why parents choose this kind of childcare, and the resulting impact of these arrangements.

The research published today comprises of both the project’s Literature Review, and first research paper, ‘Listening to Grandparents’. The research draws from:

An analysis of the English Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents from the Department of Education

A representative survey of 857 informal carers, of whom 493 people (57.5 per cent) looked after their grandchildren, with a further 52 people who were aged over 45 years and who cared for the children of their relatives; and a representative survey of 1413 parents, both of which were undertaken by IPSOS MORI on behalf of Daycare Trust in January 2011

40 semi-structured interviews of grandparents undertaken in 2010.

To obtain copies of either report, or to arrange case studies or interviews contact press office at Daycare Trust on 020 7940 7525 (out of hours 07796 886 648).


Daycare Trust is the national childcare charity, campaigning for quality affordable accessible childcare for all and raising the voices of children, parents and carers. We advise parents and carers, providers, employers, trade unions and policymakers on childcare issues. We recognise that everyone is unique and we value difference in our communities. We listen to all views and are committed to act without prejudice.

Daycare Trust runs an Information Line on 0845 872 6251, open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10.00 am-1.00 pm and 2.00 pm-5.00 pm, Wed 2.00 pm-5.00 pm (only). Parents can also visit www.daycaretrust.org.uk and www.payingforchildcare.org.uk for information.

Daycare Trust is a member of the Campaign to End Child Poverty, www.endchildpoverty.org.uk.