Coronavirus causing 'overwhelming' anxiety among thousands of grandparents who care for children in UK

The outbreak of coronavirus, and talk of relaxing lockdown restrictions, is causing anxiety among thousands of grandparents in the UK who care for children.

Most elderly people in the UK are advised to "shield" themselves from coronavirus by staying at home at all times and avoiding all face-to-face contact.

However, there are more than 100,000 children being cared for by grandparents in the UK. Without their grandparents, those children would be in the care system.

These grandparents are not only worried about the risk to their own health if they catch the virus, but terrified about what will happen to the children they care for if they pass away.

Elderly carers are worried about what will happen to the children they care for, if they catch coronavirus.

Wendy Turner, 66, who cares for eight-year-old Willow and 13-year-old Callum, has lung disease and asthma, making her "clinically extremely vulnerable".

"Should I catch Covid-19, then I’m afraid its probably game over," she told ITV News.

Ms Turner's main worry is not her own health, but the wellbeing of Willow and Callum, who she says would be taken into care without her and grandad Len.

And Willow says she is "worried about grandma".

"The coronavirus is making everyone ill so they have to go to hospital," she said.

She told ITV News: "I’m kind of worried about grandma, she does everything for me and Callum and grandad, she does cooking, she does ironing and she does all the chores in the house."

Eight-year-old Willow told Daniel Hewitt she is worried about her grandma, who has lung disease, catching coronavirus. Credit: ITV News

Many children being cared for by grandparents have "attachment disorders", says Darren McGlen, a project worker at charity Grandparents Plus.

He says that creates a "pressure cooker" of worry for those families.

Harvey Palmer, 14, is looked after by his grandad Gerald, who has chronic heart disease, and his grandma Kaye, who has fibromyalgia - a condition which causes pain all over the body.

Since his mother died in December, Harvey has been worried about losing his grandparents too.

"It’s just really scary at the moment because I just feel like if they do get it, it’s partly my fault.

"I could have gave it to them.

"I would be lost without them," he said.

Harvey Palmer, 14, says he'd be 'lost' without his grandparents. Credit: ITV News

While much of the UK's elderly will be looking forward to the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, kinship carers are worried.

If children are sent back to school, the risk of them bringing coronavirus home with them is increased.

Several grandparents speaking to ITV News in a Zoom video conference voiced their concern about children going back to school.

One grandparent said reopening schools would be the "biggest mistake" because many vulnerable carers will be forced to take their children to school, putting themselves at risk.

Before the virus outbreak, kinship carers were already among the most disadvantaged in the UK.

Unlike foster carers and adopters, kinship carers are not entitled to any support from the government.

Stats from Grandparents Plus show nine in 10 kinship carers say they don’t get the support they need.