Expert Insights

Expert Insights

The role of the ‘sandwich generation’

Whether it’s coronation chicken on sliced granary or a gluten free Victoria sponge, no sandwich works without the all-important filling!

Approximately 1 million adults living in the UK fall into what has come to be known as ‘the sandwich generation’. This group of people is made up of individuals in their 50s, 60s and 70s who informally care for their elderly or disabled parents and relatives as well as their young and full of boundless energy, grandchildren. They do this in addition to often continuing their own career, caring for their spouse or partner and running their own home and affairs. They are an essential component in an increasing number of modern day families.

Scores of people close to or well within their retirement spend the large majority of their day tending to the needs of the generation who came before them and often the second generation which follows them. Their role for the elderly relative can include anything from providing essential door to door transport for the immobile, helping with daily ablutions, cooking meals and attending to household chores or emergency heating failures.

In addition to the various physical demands, the sandwich generation carer very often needs to take care of the elderly relatives’ financial affairs, especially if capacity has become a concern or has been lost and they can no longer manage their assets.

The grandparent carer role can involve nursery or school drop offs and collections, providing after school care and taking care of their grandchildren during the long school holidays. The sandwich generation grandparent takes over the role of the much younger working parent while their adult children juggle the challenges of developing their career with raising tempestuous toddlers and trying teenagers.

The carer’s life is dominated by the needs of those they care for and their own needs, hopes and aspirations are put on indefinite hold while their caring duties increase and prevent room for the much anticipated pleasure of spontaneity or ad hoc mini breaks.

Outside help

It is widely known that childcare is extraordinarily expensive throughout the country but the South East has the second highest childcare rates in the UK with an average of £7.16 per hour (£8.45 in London) for nursery care.

The cost of sending your child to a nursery is rising faster than the rate of inflation and the cost of care for children both under two and over two has risen in both categories by more than 30% in the last 8 years. A full time nanny in Surrey can demand a salary of £400 per week. This excludes their tax, national insurance and pension contributions that need to be paid on top. For many, the cost of childcare is equal to or can even exceed the salary brought in by the parent returning to work. In this situation, the adult children of the sandwich generation often rely heavily upon their parents or parents in law to help provide child care informally, for free, in order to make financial ends meet.

For the elderly relative who is unable to remain living in their own home, a residential care home in the South East will cost on average £702 per week per individual. If nursing care is required, the cost increases to an average weekly fee of £1,041 per individual. As with child care, the South East has the second highest cost of elderly care in the country.

The number of carers in the UK is set to increase by 40% in the next 20 years as young couples increasingly delay starting a family in order to focus on their careers and pay of their university debt, the retirement age gets pushed back to allow us to work for longer to support ourselves into old age and we live longer as a race. As the sandwich generation grows, so too will the issues that they will face.

Top tips

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP understands that planning for the future and the uncertainties ahead can be daunting. Here are our top tips for ensuring your personal affairs are in order leaving you more time to juggle your caring roles:

  • Review and update your Will regularly to ensure the changing family dynamic will be cared for appropriately on your death
  • Make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs to ensure your assets can be managed without delay in the event of a loss of mental capacity and encourage other family members to do the same
  • Prepare an Advance Directive giving guidance to your family and medical team on resuscitation and life sustaining treatment
  • Make the most of the available lifetime giving allowances to help the younger generation with the cost of living during your lifetime and minimise the inheritance tax on your death
  • Tidy up any irregularities in the title deeds documenting the ownership of your home or investment properties
  • Prepare a detailed schedule of personal belongings and put in writing who should receive them on your death to prevent family quarrels
  • Lodge a confidential note of any passwords and usernames required for managing your assets online with your Solicitor to be kept with your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney.

This article was written by Lucie Sleeman and Sally Ashford and originally appeared in Surrey Life. Please contact Lucie or Sally on + (0) 1483 252 525.

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