Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has seen the benefits of "grey power" and wants the elderly to become more involved in bringing up their grandchildren. Local authorities will be told to put grandparents living in council accommodation near to their families in order to build up the bond between the generations.
The Government is also going to urge schools to invite grandparents to become voluntary classroom assistants and involve them in helping children with homework. A nationwide scheme will be set up to promote "grandparent mentors". The Government will work with businesses and the voluntary sector to identify children and teenagers who could benefit from pensioner wisdom.
The elderly mentors will be encouraged to meet the youngsters on a regular basis to give them support with their schoolwork and provide a role model for future life. They will be encouraged to go into their charges' "territory" - even to a nightclub if necessary - to make sure that they understand the younger generation properly.
Ministers are determined to break down barriers between old and young in order to encourage respect for the elderly. They also believe that grandparents are a valuable resource to be exploited. The Treasury has already made clear that grandparents will be eligible to claim child care support under the working families' tax credit if they look after their grandchildren during the day.
The Government wants to return to the days when large extended family groups lived in an area and supported each other. "All too often the service providers ignore the fact that grandparents and elderly relatives can be an important asset in supporting families," a Home Office source said.
The family consultation paper, Supporting Families, out on Wednesday, also says that couples who cohabit should be taken into account. Special information packs and advice will be given to cohabiting couples to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities.
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