Extended Families & Poverty: What Works?

Extended Families & Poverty: What Works?

Tavistock Institute & JRF launch the final briefing in the series on family poverty and relationships.


10 August 2015

Tavistock Institute & JRF launch the final briefing in the series on family poverty and relationships

Parents with children know how difficult it is to balance work and childcare, and how the help of grandparents, relatives and friends can be a lifeline. Especially given the high costs of childcare in the UK, which is currently the most expensive in Europe. But how do grandparents and extended families help those in poverty, and what impact does this have on their own finances? A new briefing is launched today by the Tavistock Institute supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

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UK anti-poverty policy in recent years has focused on increasing employment with the aim that this would improve family finances, reduce public spending and prevent the intergenerational transmission of worklessness. In the UK, state provision of childcare is limited, and private childcare is very expensive, of variable quality and tends to only be available at fixed times that are not suited to mother’s working hours. Families – especially those in poverty or lone parents – are therefore dependent on free childcare from grandparents to allow them to work.

Free and flexible childcare from grandparents is a feature of all socio-economic groups, but this is used most often by mothers on low incomes and is provided by grandmothers who are themselves short of money. Many grandmothers give up work or reduce their hours to combine work and childcare, and also help adult children who are struggling with poverty by giving them money.

But by giving money or reducing their work, this risks grandparents falling into poverty themselves. So the ability of parents in poverty to take up employment often comes at the expense of grandparents, effectively distributing poverty or low income across the generations. So we need affordable and good quality childcare to allow both mothers and grandmothers to work if they choose and to reduce family poverty risks.

Raising the state retirement pension age risks reducing the supply of grandparents able to care for grandchildren, which in turn increases the poverty risks of low-income mothers without access to affordable childcare alternatives. Keeping state pensions and pension credit at an adequate level keeps older people out of poverty and means any financial support given by grandparents is then done out of choice rather than necessity and does not risk grandparent’s own finances.

Read the policy briefing on Extended Families and Poverty.

Look out for the newsletter summarising findings from the TIHR and JRF’s series on family poverty by following us on Twitter or subscribing to our ‘Personal Relationships and Poverty’ mailing list here.

Project Lead: Laura Stock

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