Despite some recent changes in England, the UK lockdown is ongoing, meaning it’s now been more than two months since many will have been able to have physical contact with relatives outside of their household. Social distancing and shielding measures – brought in to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) – mean that many grandparents are unable to care for their grandchildren in person during the crisis.
Not only will this have an emotional effect, but it will impact families in terms of childcare too.
Additionally, some grandparents who care for under 12s may have found themselves concerned that they were unable to continue claiming National Insurance credits via the Specified Adult Childcare credits – which can help to boost a state pension amount.
These National Insurance (NI) credits were introduced from April 2011, and a person may be able to receive these NI credits if they’re a grandparent or other family member, who cares for a child under 12, usually whilst their parent or main carer is working.
In order to receive the credits – which are only available from April 2011 – the eligible person must make an application to receive them.
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Today, the Government has updated its guidance on Specified Adult Childcare credits, confirming that those eligible due to caring for children under 12 virtually due to coronavirus could continue to receive the NI credits.
“Since March 2020, your normal caring arrangements may have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19),” the guidance on the Gov.uk website states.
“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.”
Commenting on the news, Kate Smith, Aegon’s Head of Pensions, said: “Grandparents play a crucial role in helping to look after their grandchildren so parents can go to work.
“During the coronavirus crisis most grandparents have been unable to continue to carry out this role face to face, but have continued to provide vital care and support by phone, facetime, Zoom or other video services.
“Although generally unpaid, it’s a little known fact that grandparents under state pension age can claim NI credits for looking after their grandchildren who are under 12.
“These NI credits can be extremely useful in helping to not only plug NI gaps, but also to build up the 35 qualifying NI years to get entitlement to the full state pension.
“The coronavirus crisis will have impacted these caring arrangements, with many grandparents not physically seeing their grandchildren since lockdown, potentially jeopardising their retirement plans and future wellbeing.
“There’s a strict time limit in claiming the NI credits, as grandparents need to be below state pension age when they cared for the under 12s.
“Many grandparents close to state pension age will welcome the government’s decision to allow them to continue to claim for NI credits where care for under 12s is provided virtually, helping them to build up entitlement to the full state pension.”
Specified Adult Childcare credits can help a person to build up their National Insurance contributions.
It means that the person will receive a Class 3 NI credit for each week or part week that they cared for the child.
“Class 3 NI credits help to build entitlement to the state pension and, until April 2017, certain bereavement benefits,” Gov.uk states.
Specified Adult Childcare credits also can help to stop gaps in the individual’s National Insurance record.
A person will usually need at least 10 qualifying years on their National Insurance record to get any state pension, although these do not have to be in a row.
For the new state pension, the actual amount a person gets depends on the National Insurance record.
There are two reasons why the amount be higher – and these are if the person has over a certain amount of Additional State Pension, or they defer taking the state pension.