Grandparents bear greater share of childcare duties
MORE Australian children are being cared for by their grandparents than by formal childcare providers, such as long day care, according to new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The figures show that while half of all Australian children under 12 received childcare of some form last year, just 24 per cent were in formal care, compared with 26 per cent who were cared for by their grandparents.
Almost 40 per cent of children were looked after by informal carers such as family, friends, nannies or babysitters. This compares with 14 per cent who attended long day care and 2 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively, who attended formal family day care and occasional care.
The number of children who are cared for by their grandparents increased from 19 per cent when the last survey was conducted in 2008, to just over a quarter of children.
The number of children receiving either formal or informal childcare also increased, from 43 per cent in 2008 to 52 per cent last year.
Melbourne grandmother Noela Steinfort, who looks after up to three of her grandchildren at least once a week, says the arrangement is a ''win-win'' for everyone.
''It's not childcare for us. We love it,'' says Mrs Steinfort, who typically cares for her grandchildren with her husband, Paul. ''It's good for the children. It's good for us and it's good for their parents.
''It's a really great way for us to get to know the children even better,'' she says. ''And for their parents it's so much easier because there is no rushing out the door to drop the kids off or rushing home. Sometimes we arrive and the kids are still in their pyjamas with Weet-Bix all over them but it doesn't matter,'' she laughs.
Mrs Steinfort's daughter-in-law, Emma Steinfort, who works two days a week as a doctor - her husband works full time - says she is fortunate to have Noela and Paul look after her three children, who are also cared for by a nanny once a week.
''Besides the convenience, I love that I can leave the house without any anxiety because I know they love our kids as much as we do … and it's great for their relationship. They really become a part of each other's lives.''
The survey also found that of children who usually attended formal care, 40 per cent attended for fewer than 10 hours a week, and 9 per cent went for 35 hours or more. The average cost for children attending formal care has doubled since 2008, from less than $40 a week to less than $80.
Meanwhile, the report found that a large majority of families (92 per cent) who used non-formal care incurred no cost.
17 May 2012