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Byline: By Kathryn Armstrong Evening Gazette

Teen mum Laura Robson is only 18 and her little boy James is nine months old.

She's getting on her feet with job training on a Sure Start scheme and, to make ends meet, she works in a bar a few nights a week.

It gives her a bit of extra money and means she has some independence.

But it would be impossible for her to work if it wasn't for the help of her mum Glenys.

Glenys, from Stockton, has just stopped work herself: she has osteo-arthritis and heavy work at the local hospital was getting too much for her.

Now she wants to do all she can to support her daughter and little James.

"Laura and James live with us so it is easy - she's out three or four times a week and wouldn't be able to do it if she was paying for childcare."

Like most grandmas, Glenys loves looking after James.

"I do it for love, of course I do, most grandmas do and I wouldn't take money off Laura.

"But I think carers should get some kind of allowance because they often allow people to go out to work, earn a living and pay taxes."

AUDREY Newton looks after two young grandchildren at weekends to enable her daughter Joanne to go to work.

Joanne works in the kitchens at North Tees University hospital but is currently on maternity leave after having John six weeks ago.

For Audrey, 62, looking after the children is something she enjoys.

She agrees that this "unofficial" childminding is a real labour of love, but thinks that there should be some kind of allowance for family carers.

"I'm on a pension - I'd never ask Joanne for money for looking after the children but the reality is that looking after them does cost extra. Everyone - parent or grandparent - knows how expensive things are these days.

"I can't buy them all the things I'd like or take them everywhere because it adds up."

LYNNE Thompson's grandson Kieron is the apple of her eye.

He's four now and just starting school near home in Thorntree.

His mum Louise is bringing him up on her own and she works in a Middlesbrough town centre store part-time.

Without her mum to look after Kieron she wouldn't be able to manage to work.

Childcare costs would be too much and without transport she would struggle further.

As it is Lynne, 52, is happy to help out.

So three days a week she sets off from home near Guisborough to travel to Middlesbrough to collect Kieron from nursery where he goes every morning.

Then she looks after him at Louise's house until she gets home from work after 2pm.

It's a situation that works perfectly for everyone.

"We have a lovely time," says Lynne. "When I started looking after him I decided that it would be a fun time - if he's at my house I don't do housework or anything when he's there. It's precious time together and I value it.

"When he was born it was natural that I would look after Kieron and I was happy to. Money wasn't an issue which is lucky - but for many grandparents it must be hard because there is a financial aspect to looking after a child.

"I wouldn't expect money for looking after my grandson but I don't see why there shouldn't be allowance for family carers - after all, that is the form of childcare I am sure most parents would prefer if they could.

"Louise has friends with children who don't have grandparents on hand and they decide not to work because the childcare costs outweigh anything they earn."


* 60pc of childcare is provided by grandparents

* 20pc of grandparents under 60 are also step-grandparents

* The typical cost of a nursery place for a child under two is now pounds 128 a week, or more than pounds 6,650 a year, says the childcare charity Daycare Trust.

* The typical cost of a full-time place with a childminder for a child under two was pounds 118 a week, while the typical cost for an after-school club was pounds 34 for 15 hours a week.

The charity is calling on ministers and employers to provide parents with more help with childcare costs.

Stephen Burke, director of Daycare Trust, said: "British parents face the highest childcare bills in Europe. Parents need more financial help towards childcare costs to enable them to work and to give their children a good start in life. The Government should improve the childcare tax credit and do more to encourage employers to help their staff with childcare costs.

"Affordable childcare for all is crucial to achieving many of the Government's policies - from ending child poverty to raising educational attainment."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 25, 2004
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