Mum ‘fills void’ after retirement thanks to new childcare scheme

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A mother who felt lonely after retiring has “filled a void” by giving up time to care for another family’s child, despite having no professional childcare experience.

Debra Willett has the opportunity thanks to a new website, called GrandNanny, set up to give parents the chance to have older, experienced people look after their kids.

The 56-year-old woman has put her plans to enjoy retirement on hold after she felt unsettled after giving up work at her local council last year.

The mother-of-three found she missed seeing people and quickly felt she “had nothing to speak about or get excited about”.

Now Debra has started her part-time role looking after a six-year-old child at a family home in Brighton, East Sussex.

Debra said: “It’s helping fill that void I had. Getting up with the idea of experiencing something new every day really makes the difference.

“I had felt a bit lonely and not of any use anymore other than keeping the house clean and cooking nice meals for when my children and my husband came home.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say bereft but I was just a bit lost. With everyone else getting out and about each day and having lots of what to me were interesting things to talk about, I felt I had nothing to speak about or get excited about. I like being physically active and I wasn’t.”

I had felt a bit lonely and not of any use anymore other than keeping the house clean and cooking nice meals for when my children and my husband came home

Debra Willett

Debra, whose own children are all grown-up, said she had missed having children around.

She said: “It never ceases to amaze me how inquisitive a child can be. Watching my own children grow up is a part of my life I will treasure.”

More than 100 over 50s are registered with GrandNanny – it only offers work to that age group.

The Office for National Statistics said last year there was an increase of economic activity amongst this demographic, with around 116,000 people coming out of retirement to work again in any capacity in the whole of 2022.

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GrandNanny is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Adele Aitchison, who had worked in advertising for 10 years prior to starting the company.

She said people are cutting their retirement short due to spiralling inflation, volatile financial markets, and the soaring cost of living.

The 32-year-old, who lives in east London, said GrandNanny customers had told her tell you they are “breathing a sigh of relief because they’ve found someone reliable and local to fill what they see as a lack of grandparent-like figure in their child’s life”.

Ms Aitchison noticed this gap when she moved from her hometown of Preston, Lancashire, where she was near her grandparents, to London. She came across couples who were reluctant to have children because they had no family, such as grandparents, nearby to help with childcare.

The entrepreneur, who has no children herself, said: “I thought, as I’m not geographically close to my family, ‘who would I trust to raise future children’ and the ideal person that sprang to mind was a grandparent-like figure who had lots of life experience, and who themselves would find that social connection and the finance, the paid employment, really beneficial.”

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