Should grandparents be paid to care for their grandkids?

Kinderling News & Features

My parents have had a continuous caring role in the lives of my children.

From the time I went back to work (10 months with my daughter, 4 months with my son) they have stepped in to help.

I’m one of three kids, and they have done the same for each of us- and we all have two children.

There have been days when they were looking after four kids under six.

We have all been incredibly lucky, for a number of reasons.

There are some that would accuse us of using our parents

In fact, it’s come up between the siblings at different times, and caused terrible rifts.

But the truth is, our parents step in because they love us, they love our children, and they want to be involved.

And we ask our parents for help because we need to work, and we can’t afford full time day care. Beyond the financial need, we also love the relationship they have with my parents- and I know they love it too.

My mother-in-law will fly up from her home in Adelaide to help out during the school holidays.

Both my children get ridiculously excited before she arrives.

We have never paid our parents to look after our kids

I know that Nona, Nana and Pop would refuse any financial recompense for their caring hours.

Which is not the same as saying that grandparents don’t deserve to be paid.

Comparison website found that grandparents save their kids around $6,000 per year in child care fees.

If I had my kids in child care every day of the week, I’d be out of pocket $750 per week (before rebate, which historically has run out when you hit the cap of $7,000.00). It’s not an option for many families.

In this example you can see the very real cost of caring for children.

And it highlights the overall invisibility of the cost of caring- whether it’s for children, the less abled and the elderly. Carers Australia released a report in 2015 that estimated that informal carers (ie friends and family) save the economy 60.3 billion dollars. 

We assume that because you love someone that caring for them is also free. And while essentially that is true, it does have a ripple effect in terms of employment, superannuation and mental health.

The Government does provide a small subsidy for grandparent carers

If you look after one or more grandchildren on a regular basis you can apply to be a Registered Carer

Mike told the Sydney Morning Herald that while the money wasn’t a huge amount, over the year it added up to $800 for the time they spent in one year of caring.

You need to supply receipts for the time you’ve spent looking after children (which might feel strange for family members) but if it means they’re being recompensed for their time, it’s worth it.

A truly evolved society would value its carers

I don’t assume that my parents will look after my kids. I don’t believe it’s part of their duty as my parents. I’ve always been grateful, and I know how lucky I am.

Most people who care (my parents and mother-in-law included) aren’t asking anyone for money.

They do it for love.  

But I have to agree that I do think grandparents should be paid for looking after their grandkids. If only to demonstrate that we all value their contribution.

The Government payment on offer currently doesn’t go far enough. And if we want women re-entering the work force, and supporting themselves in their retirement, then we need to support the caring work our grandparents are doing.

And if that happens, we would be making steps to make grandparent carers visible again.

And that’s what I think this argument should really be about.