They may even be able to apply for the credit if the care they have provided is via video or over the phone, as the coronavirus pandemic has kept families apart and disrupted people’s childcare routines.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Royal London found more than 15,000 applications were approved between October 2018 and September 2019.
This compares with 10,000 applications approved over the same period in 2017/18. But the mutual insurer said this is still likely to only be a small fraction of the numbers of people who could benefit.
Under the specified adult childcare credit regime, a grandparent aged under state pension age looking after a child under 12 years old whose parent returns to work can benefit from national insurance (NI) credits.
The working parent is likely to be paying NI in their own right and so no longer needs the NI credit that comes with receipt of child benefit. They can sign this over to the family member who is looking after their child, at no cost to themselves.
The credits can then be added to the NI record of the grandparent and help them to build up a full state pension. Depending on who is caring for the child, while the parent works, they could also be claimed by other family members such as aunts, uncles. Claims can be backdated to when the scheme was launched in April 2011.
The gov.uk website says: “Since March 2020, your normal caring arrangements may have been affected by coronavirus (Covid-19).
“If you have provided care in a different way, for example over the telephone or video, you can still apply for NI credits for the financial years 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021.”
Helen Morrissey, a pension specialist at Royal London, said: “Grandparents have long carried out a vital service in taking care of grandchildren whose parents return to work and it is positive that this benefit exists to ensure those under state pension age do not miss out on national insurance credits.
“However, while it is really positive to see such growth in the number of applications we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to the numbers of people who stand to benefit.
“The Government’s recent clarification that those providing care via telephone or video is also welcome and will really help people plug gaps in their national insurance record. We urge those caring for children under the age of 12 to check to see if they can claim.”
Earlier this month the lockdown restrictions in Scotland were relaxed to allow young children to be able to hug their grandparents and play with friends.
Under the changes, under-12s are no longer be required to maintain 2m social distancing from other children or adults, as long as they are outdoors at the time.
Before the rule changes many grandparents were reliant on the internet to stay in touch with their grandchildren, through site such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp enabling video calls from one person to another.