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Grandparent carers deserve recognition

A childcare system that is more flexible, affordable and accessible would alleviate the pressure on older Australians to provide care for their grandchildren when parents return to work said leading seniors advocate COTA Australia.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s public inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, COTA Australia said most grandparents enjoyed providing care for grandchildren on a regular basis but many felt their role was not recognised and could be better supported.

The COTA submission calls for:

  • An increase in occasional childcare and after school care to provide respite to grandparent carers and to cover care when grandparents are ill or on holidays;
  • More flexible childcare to provide for parents who don’t work regular hours and rely on grandparents to pick up the care;
  • More accessibility and greater affordability of childcare so pressure on grandparents to provide care is reduced;
  • More resources for grandparent carers such as courses on modern early childhood development and support services.

COTA Australia CE Ian Yates said the most recent Census data reveals that more than 937,000 children receive childcare from a grandparent on a regular basis, including about a quarter of all children under the age of 12.

“Grandparents play a huge role in the care of young people and often fill the gaps of an inadequate childcare system when parents struggle to find or afford formal childcare,” Mr Yates said.

“Grandparents provide regular care for pre‐schoolers and take and pick up older kids from school. They provide care during school holidays and when their grandchildren
are sick. Many give up their own jobs and retire early in order to play the carer role.

“When you add up their contribution it really is significant and highly undervalued by the government and broader community.

“The huge majority of grandparents derive great pleasure from looking after grandchildren but there is no doubt that a more robust and flexible childcare system would ease the pressure on grandparents who are sometimes providing care less out of choice than necessity.

“The trend of people choosing to start their families later in life means the age people become grandparents is also higher. Many grandparent carers are well into their 60s and 70s and taking on young kids can be exhausting.

“Providing better support and resources for grandparents  and supporting more occasional care places would help to give grandparents respite and reduce the issues created when grandparents fall ill or want to take a holiday.

“I urge the Productivity Commission to give due consideration to grandparent carers as a part of this inquiry.”

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