Parents under pressure as virus limits childcare options


25 July 2020

  • More than one in four parents feel unable to ask for childcare help from loved ones as a result of pandemic
  • 15% of parents require additional childcare help from friends and family this year as they continue to juggle parenting and work responsibilities
  • Grandparents now providing £3,770 worth of childcare a year

While more than two-fifths (44%) of parents rely on grandparents for childcare support, more than a quarter (27%) feel they can no longer be as dependent on family and friends, due to ongoing health and safety concerns around the pandemic.

New How Scotland Lives research from Bank of Scotland revealed that whilst some parents are considering keeping their children away from their grandparents through the summer months in order to keep them safe from the virus, grandparents themselves seem less concerned, with just one in 10 (10%) expecting to do less childcare, and almost half (46%) expecting their usual school holiday childcare duties to stay the same. In fact, 12% of grandparents who do not usually take on childcare, have offered to do so in order to support their own children.


Staying indoors

Despite ongoing concerns, the circumstances of 15% of parents mean they are having to be more reliant than they would usually be on friends and family this summer, as they continue to balance work and home life commitments.

Parents who are allowing grandparents to take on childcare responsibilities this summer have shown real concern around how time together should be spent, which has led to the ruling out of several of the typical summer activities, in light of ongoing social distancing restrictions. There has been a significant reduction in the number of parents allowing trips to the cinema (-26%), holidays (-21%), theme parks (-7%), and swimming (-4%) due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, they are more encouraging of activities that keep everyone in open spaces, such as picnics (+6%).

Tara Foley, Managing Director, Bank of Scotland, said: “For many parents, the challenge of conflicting work and childcare commitments continues this summer, with some facing difficult decisions around who is best to take care of their children.

“Whilst some parents remain worried about relying on loved ones for support during the ongoing pandemic, not all families can rely on holiday clubs and professional childcare. These will likely be a stretch too far for some budgets where paying for additional childcare wasn’t part of the plan.”

Regional variations

There are significant regional differences when it comes to the number of parents who rely on their own parents for childcare support (see table 1).

More than half (52%) of mums and dads in the West of Scotland receive regular help with childcare, which is more than in any other region, and 8% more than the Scottish average. Likewise, parents in Mid-Scotland, which includes Stirlingshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross, (48%), and Central Scotland (45%), are also more reliant on their parents for help with the kids.  At the other end of the spectrum is the Highlands and Islands, where just over a third (35%) of parents, receive support from grandparents.  

On average, grandparents report spending nine hours a week caring for their grandchildren, up from eight hours in 2019. Given the UK average pay for professional childcare is just over £8 per hour, this means grandparents are providing the equivalent of over £3,770 worth of childcare throughout the year, or at least £432 for the six weeks of the summer holidays.