With grandparents stepping in to help reduce the cost of childcare, millions of parents are finding themselves feeling trapped in locations close to granny and granddad.

UK parents are stuck in a ‘parent trap’ and feel forced to live near to their children’s grandparents in order to get help with childcare, according to our latest research.

Our data of 2,000 UK parents with children under the age of 13, found that half (50%), live less than five miles from their child’s nearest grandparent and seven in 10 (68%) live within a 30 minute journey.

Yet this may not always be by choice. More than half (57%) rely on childcare support from at least one grandparent (rising to 72% of those living within 30 minutes of their nearest grandparent).

Average family receives over £4,600 of free childcare from grandparents

The average family relies on nine hours of grandparent childcare support a week, equating to 468 hours per year. With parents estimating they spend £9.90 per hour on childcare (including nursery, babysitting, summer camps etc), this is worth a whopping £4,633.20 of free childcare annually, at a time when costs are already spiralling.

With nursery costs now higher than the average UK monthly mortgage*, it’s not surprising that many parents are reliant on the ‘nursery of grandma and grandpa’.

However, the flip side is that over half (52%) of parents who receive childcare support from grandparents say they now feel ‘trapped’ when it comes to where they live.

A key reason for this was financial restrictions, with 36% of parents who have grandparent support saying they could not afford to be without it as professional childcare would be too expensive.

Parents would need to earn £8,000-a-year more to forgo free childcare

This support is particularly crucial for parents who have children under school age. Although 18% of parents in this category who receive more than 10 hours a week of grandparent support say that they prefer grandparents looking after their children, the financial stretch required to swap to professional childcare is clear for the remaining 82%.

These parents believe they would need to increase their personal incomes by an average of £8,055 a year in order to be able to forgo free childcare.

Many are even having to put their own home owning aspirations on hold to get free childcare support.

Parents unable to afford larger homes near grandparents

More than four in 10 (44%) of parents feeling trapped would like to move to a larger home, but prices are not affordable in the area they need to be in order to receive grandparent support.

A quarter (24%) say that they would like to move to a different area but can’t as they need to remain near their parents.

Some are even being prevented entirely from getting on the housing ladder, with almost a third (29%) of those who get grandparent support saying that they would like to buy somewhere but are having to rent in order to stay near to their parents or parents-in-law.

20% of parents choose to move nearer grandparents

Whilst some put their moving aspirations on hold, others make a conscious decision to move closer to grandparents after having children.

Nearly two in five (19%) parents said that, since having children, they had moved closer to grandparents, whilst 11% are currently planning to move.

Over the summer holidays, grandparents increase their weekly support by 26% – from 9 hours a week on average to 11.3 hours weekly.

Some parents even admit to asking their parents or parents-in-law if they will move closer to help with childcare support.

Of all the parents surveyed, 28% had discussed moving homes with their children’s grandparents to be closer for childcare reasons. Of those, a notable 31% have had a parent or parent-in-law move house to be closer to help with childcare.

Parents agreed that on average, around seven miles away was the ideal distance to live from a grandparent – close enough to be on hand for regular support, but far enough away that they would not drop in constantly and unannounced.

The research also showed that many parents make do with little to no familial support, with 32% receiving no childcare support from grandparents or any further relations.

Our Consumer Expert Daniel Copley says: “As a parent, I know first-hand how expensive childcare can be, and how valuable family support is. As such, many Brits feel that they are trapped when it comes to where they live, with it being vital that grandparents are nearby to help out.

“This is leaving many in the tricky spot of not being able to afford to buy a place close to their parents, forcing them to rent when they might otherwise be able to get on the housing ladder. Or simply living in an area they don’t really want to live in.

“My advice would be to have open and honest conversations with grandparents about the support they are prepared to offer, and how far they would be willing to travel. Zoopla’s travel time tool can then show all the properties that are within that distance. Equally, grandparents may be amenable to moving. Many may be looking to move to a smaller home, or free up some of the equity in their home to fund their retirement, and moving to a more affordable location may work for them as well.”

* Research conducted by Mortar Research in June 2024 amongst 2,047 UK parents with kids under the age of 13.

Key takeaways

  • More than half (57%) of UK parents rely on their children’s grandparents for childcare support, with the average family receiving 468 hours of free childcare a year, worth over £4,600
  • This is leading to over half (52%) of reliant parents feeling ‘trapped’ into living nearby their children’s grandparents
  • Housing aspirations are being prevented by the ‘parent trap’ – with four in 10 (44%) unable to move to a bigger home because of affordability within proximity of grandparents
  • To help, we have a range of tools, from our travel time tool to the new, AI-powered personalised listing recommendations which match users with suitable properties based on their recent site behaviour, to help parents finds their ideal home