THE BLOG

A New Organisation for Grandparents - And Their Grandchildren and Families

02/11/2015 13:21 GMT | Updated 02/11/2016 09:12 GMT

In the 1970s my mother worked full-time which meant that my grandmother - my mother's mother - was there looking after my brother, sister and me at the end of the school day and in the school holidays.

As such my grandmother was the most important adult in my life. I owe her lots of things - from my lifelong love for sport, particularly Brentford FC and Middlesex County Cricket, to my taste for London Pride given my grandparents were employees of Fullers. And for a work ethic as she kept us all in line, made sure we didn't waste away the holidays in bed, and walked faster than most people half her age.

So when Jean Stogdon, the co-founder with Michael Young in 2001 of Grandparents Plus, came to see me at the childcare charity, Daycare Trust, it was a no brainer. I accepted Jean's request to become a trustee of Grandparents Plus in 2002 in memory of my own grandmother.

Grandparents Plus has done much since then to recognise grandparents - and particularly those who care for their grandchildren full-time because their parents can't for whatever reason. The charity has grown in size, impact and profile massively since those early days.

Now 13 years later I have just stood down as co-chair of Grandparents Plus as it merges with Grandparents Association to create a powerful, new voice and source of support for Britain's 14 million grandparents.

It is a historic moment. Whereas there are some 20,000 charities for children in this country, there is now just one national charity for grandparents. And there is a huge job for the new organisation to do - from supporting grandparents who are full-time kinship carers to those who have no contact with their grandchildren, plus achieving recognition for what grandparents do in 21st century Britain.

One of the continuing issues is childcare. As more mothers work, so their parents are increasingly expected to provide childcare, free of course. But grandparents' lives are also changing. People are working longer and have different expectations of life, work and leisure, home and family.

Grandparents are also being asked more and more to help out their children and grandchildren, not just with childcare but also with the cost of housing, holidays and other living costs as well as all the usual treats.

In dealing with these issues, many grandparents need advice and support. Someone they can talk to, either on the phone or in a peer network. Someone to champion their corner and someone to promote all they are doing for their grandchildren.

Not everyone is a grandparent but everyone has grandparents. And we owe them a massive thanks for all they have done or do for us. Some of us will have the opportunity to show our thanks and reciprocate their care as our grandparents become frailer.

Now the new organisation - Grandparents Plus incorporating Grandparents Association (a new name will follow in 2016) - will recognise, support and fight for grandparents and their contribution to improving family life in Britain. To do so, it will need to add up to much more than the sum of its parts.

I wish the charity, its co-chairs - Helen Jackson and Trevor Bush - and trustees and staff the very best in its exciting mission.