During 2010, Family Fund sent out questionnaires to 500 grandparents who are the main carers for their disabled grandchildren and received usable responses from 324 (65 per cent). Alongside statistical analysis, the focus of the research was on generating direct views from grandparents about the additional support they need to cope with the physical, financial and emotional challenges they face. In some cases, the free answers on the questionnaire were followed up by telephone discussions.

Of the respondents, 99% were bringing up their grandchild full time and 89% were providing more than 50 hours of care a week. The grandchildren had a wide range of disabilities and conditions that provided great challenges:

  • 84% had a developmental disability, such as an autistic spectrum disorder or a learning difficulty;
  • 69% had an emotional or behavioural disability;
  • 42% had a physical disability; and
  • 30% had a sensory impairment (visual or hearing difficulty)
  • 82% of the children had multiple disabilities and 41% had a long-term illness.

Grandparents can feel very isolated, a problem which is even more pronounced for lone grandparents. They welcome the idea of a network or a support group. And their age and state of health make things harder for them than for parents.

Against all this, many grandparents say that they would not change looking after their disabled grandchild for anything in the world.

We explore these findings in the report, where we also provide more space for the voices of grandparents themselves to be heard.

Click here to download the report.