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Grandparents will still receive NI credits for 'digital' childcare during lockdown

Jessica Beard
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Grandparents can continue to top up their state pension through National Insurance (NI) credits received in return for looking after their grandchildren during the crisis, despite not being able to do so in person.

Anyone over the age of 70 has been advised to be particularly stringent of the social distancing rules and avoid gatherings with friends and family regardless of medical conditions. 

This means that grandparents up and down the country will no longer be able to look after their grandchildren in person, but many have done what they can to keep helping out from afar. 

The Government recognised that normal caring arrangements were likely to have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. It confirmed that those looking after children under the age of 12 over the phone or on video can still apply for NI credit.

The appeal of gaining extra NI credit is that it helps increase your eligibility for the state pension. The amount you receive under the new state pension depends on your record of paying NI contributions.

You will need at least 10 years in total on your NI record to get any state pension. In order to qualify for the full new state pension, which is currently £175.20 per week, you need a total of 35 qualifying years of NI contributions or credits. 

Steve Webb, partner at pension consultancy LCP, said: “Things are disrupted during the lockdown and it would be unfair to penalise grandparents. In reality many are still helping out so that the parents can work from home.”

This is a good system, the former pensions minister said, because a lot of young grandparents help out so that parents, typically mothers, can get back to work but they are then at risk of losing out on National Insurance themselves. This ensures that they don't lose out.

Other family members as well as grandparents can apply for the credit if they have cared for the child. They will receive “adult childcare credits”, which are transferred from the credit attached to child benefits.

This means that if no one has claimed child benefit for the child then there is no NI credit to transfer and the special adult care credits cannot be given. 

The credit is attached to the person receiving it so there is not a credit available for each child under 12 cared for but for each child benefit recipient. 

For example, if two grandparents are looking after their daughter’s two children, then there is only one credit available for transfer. If they are looking after their daughter’s child and their son’s child then it is likely that there will be two child benefit recipients and so two credits are available. 

You should not apply for the credit if you already have a qualifying year of NI because you are working or receive other credit.

Likewise, if you are receiving child benefit for the child then already get the parent’s credits automatically. 

In order to apply for the credit, you will have to fill out an application firm, which requires personal details of both yourself, the child and the child’s parents.