Bringing Up Your Grandchildren
Grandparents play a vital role in children’s lives providing love, a sense of belonging to the family and save the economy an estimated £4 billion in childcare per year.
Retirement is a time for grandparents to sit back, relax and enjoy spending time with their family. Over 200,000 grandparents, however, are acting as full-time parents to their grandchildren and are experiencing the highs and lows of child rearing second time around.
Grandparents taking on the role of full-time parents often feel separated from their peers as they again enter the world of looking after young children. Socially, they may feel isolated as they find it more difficult to socialise with their own friends whose families have long since grown up and left home Furthermore, children whose parents are no longer able to look after them are often traumatised and can have emotional and psychological problems. Therefore, the grandparents stepping in to take care of them will need to offer a good deal of support in addition to the more everyday aspects of raising children such as school runs, mealtimes and bedtimes.
It is important to recognise your limits when looking after children second time around. You may have had to make changes in your life such as returning to work in order to look after the children financially. It can be a very demanding time and you need to ensure that your own health and well-being is kept up in order that you will be fit and well enough to take care of the children.
If your grandchildren are pre-schoolers, look out for local parent and toddler groups in your area. Many cost very little and will allow you to meet others looking after young children. With grandparents providing a large percentage of childcare, it is possible that you will meet other carers of your own age and form friendships and support networks. If the children are school age, think about becoming a school governor or helping out with an after-school club. If time is limited, try to attend any school events, shows or sports days your grandchildren are involved in.
Can You Get Financial Support?
Taking over the full time care of your grandchildren can dramatically alter your financial outlook.
Funds which were previously set aside for retirement may now need to be allocated to the grandchildren’s financial welfare.
Adding up the costs
There is no doubt that alongside all the love they bring, raising children is expensive. There are the everyday expenses such as food, clothing and increased domestic bills to more specific costs relating to funding children’s education through university. It is a sensible precaution therefore, to take stock of your financial situation, taking account of all assets including savings, investments and property against the projected financial cost of bring up children.
Can you get financial help?
If in becoming responsible for looking after your grandchildren, your situation has changed considerably it is always worth contacting the Benefits Agency to see if there are any benefits you may be entitled to. Make an appointment at your local Benefits Agency and talk it through with an advisor. If your grandchildren are residing with you permanently, you may well be entitled to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
You can check your entitlement on the Internet at www.hmrc.gov.uk or ring their dedicated Child Benefit Line on 0845 302 1444 or 0845 302 1474 (text phone) 8am – 8pm 7 days per week.
The way in which you go about obtaining Parental Responsibility could have a bearing on the level of financial support you might receive and it is therefore vital that you seek legal advice from a family lawyer before considering any course of action regarding Parental Responsibility for your grandchildren.
Peter Harris, Chairman of the Grandparent’s Association warns of the pitfalls of taking out a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order before trying to negotiate money from your Local Authority. “Some Authorities try to evade their responsibility by persuading grandparents they should take out an order. Once that happens the child no longer needs support and so it’s effectively goodbye.”
Residence Order Allowance
If you have a Residence Order, the Local Authority may pay you an allowance. It is discretionary, based on the needs of the child, your needs and your Local Authority’s policy.
Special Guardianship Allowance
If you have a Special Guardianship Order the Local Authority can pay you a Special Guardianship Allowance. It is means tested and discretionary (unless you have previously been receiving a fostering allowance). If you have been fostering a child you should get the higher rate of allowance for two years.
Further Advice - Welfare Benefits Hotline
The Grandparents Association offer specialist welfare benefits information for those grandparents (or other family members and friends) who are caring for their grandchildren full time. Contact 0844 3571033.
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