An unpaid army of grandparents is saving the UK more than £17 billion a year in childcare costs, a new report claims.
Over-50s insurance provider Rias says that more than two thirds of grandparents are helping out with their grandchildren, looking after them for an average of 9.1 hours a week - up 11% on last year, and 49% more than in 2009.
With only 1% paid for their time, grandparents are saving their children an average of £1,902 a year. On top of this, most grandparents help pay for things like toys, clothing, pocket money, savings, hobbies and leisure activities, spending an average of £88 a month.
Some find this hard to afford, with 22% of grandparent "childminders" admitting they've been forced to dip into their savings to pay for their grandchildren, and 5% even becoming overdrawn.
"Grandparents not only continue to play a vital life line for UK families, but also bring knowledge and experience that benefits generations. However they are not only contributing their time but often their savings too," says Rias managing director Peter Corfield.
"For those who rely only on a state pension, it can be up to 18% of their annual income on activities and costs of looking after the grandchildren, meaning they not only make an enormous and selfless contribution in terms of time, energy and experience but financially too."
Grandparents in the north west are the most likely to provide childcare, with 74% looking after their grandchildren - and they also put the most hours in, averaging 12 hours per week. In the south east, 57% take on the role. Scottish grandparents spend the most on activities for their grandchildren: an average of £40 a month.
A recent report from Halifax found that parents spend an average of £41,139 per child on childcare up to the age of 11 - more than they spend on their child's food, schooling, clothes, toys and leisure activities combined.
"As parents feel the pressures of everyday life, from increasing work commitments to rising childcare costs, it's getting ever more important to have grandparents on hand to help out," says Corfield.
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