The facts about your rights as a grandparent
As the summer holidays approach, many parents are starting to make arrangements for their children over the long break.
With spiralling childcare costs, more and more families are looking to relatives and friends to help them look after their children. For parents unable to care for their children, it is often the grandparents who step in and help raise the child.
Nearly 200,000 children in the UK are being raised by a family member other than a parent, many of whom are spending their own money on covering the child’s everyday needs.
If you look after your grandchildren after school or during the holidays then it’s important to know your rights. You may also be unaware that you can actually claim partial childcare costs – known as Grandparents Credits – for looking after your grandchildren.
What is Grandparents Credit?
First introduced in 2011, Grandparents Credit entitles grandmothers and grandfathers of working age to National Insurance credits to supplement their income during retirement. It is available for children under 12, to family members other than parents who care for children.
To claim the credits, you must live in the UK, be under the current retirement age (67), but not be working. For grandparents who have retired early to help care for their grandchildren, these credits can help to top-up your pension.
How does it work?
Working parents can now give up their Child Benefit credits and donate them to their child’s grandparents (or other family members) for the previous year. To be eligible, grandparents and parents must apply for the credits to be transferred.
Application for National Insurance credits need to be made to HM Revenue & Customs in the October following the end of the tax year in which the caring took place. Forms must be signed by both the adult carer and the Child Benefit recipient.
It doesn’t matter how many hours or days you care for the child; even if you only look after them one day a week, you are still eligible to claim.
As the Grandparents Credit was introduced in April 2011, if you are eligible you can claim back as far as the 2011/12 tax year.
What are my contact rights as a grandparent?
If you have been an active part of your grandchildren’s lives, helping to raise and care for them, and have now been denied contact, you may believe that you have a right to see them.
Unfortunately, under the Children Act 1989, grandparents do not have automatic contact rights to their grandchildren. However, if you have been a primary carer or regularly involved in your grandchild’s life, but have now been denied contact, you are able to apply to the Court and may be granted a Child Arrangements Order.
Although only people with parental responsibility can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order, you may be granted permission to apply for one. In fact, in 2016, there were almost 2,000 applications made to the Courts by grandparents seeking contact to their grandchildren.
If either parent makes an objection to your application, you may have to attend a full hearing where you will need to share evidence of a meaningful, frequent and ongoing relationship with your grandchildren that significantly benefits their lives.
If you are in any doubt about your rights as a grandparent, or have been denied contact to your grandchildren, the best option is to speak to a solicitor, who will help you understand what is needed to make your case.