Senate Inquiry Reports on Grandparent Carers
30 October 2014 at 10:10 am
A Senate Committee report to Federal Parliament into grandparent carers has called for financial and legal support for the often-ignored grandparents raising grandchildren as well as funding for voluntary support groups.
The report makes 18 detailed recommendations it says will better support grandparents raising grandchildren.
The report said that one of the big concerns is that there are inadequate statistics on the numbers of grandparents placed in the position of caring for their grandchildren full time and the Committee called for action to determine how many grandparents raising grandchildren there are in the community.
“Throughout this inquiry, in the evidence received, public hearings and conversations we’ve had, there is a clear love and commitment by grandparents raising grandchildren, however it is clear many are doing it tough and need more support,” Committee Chair Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
“The Committee acknowledges grandparents for ‘providing their grandchildren with a loving and safe home in which to flourish and achieve their full potential’."
WA Not for Profit Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren told the inquiry that the “road grandparents are on is long, hard, tough, bumpy, painful, soul-destroying and exhausting, but much love, determination and courage is given by grandparents to raise healthy and happy grandchildren. This caring role has been pushed upon them by the inability of their own children to care and take responsibility for their children. Grandparent carers need moral support, emotional support and financial support from everyone in the community to raise these grandchildren so they are not a burden on the taxpayer but become role models in society in their adult lives”.
“From our inquiry, it is clear that action is needed to address the numerous and significant challenges facing grandparents raising grandchildren that can improve their quality of life, and ability to support and care for their grandchildren,” Senator Siewert said.
“The recommendations go to critical areas, including financial support, legal and relationship supports, accommodation, health, mental health and counselling services which will assist grandparent raising grandchildren to support themselves and the children in their care.
“In too many cases, these services are inadequate, unavailable or just are not known about, meaning needs are going unmet.
“Very often, when grandparents are caring for children there have been serious issues, including associated with the loss of a parent or parents, trauma, relationship breakdowns or other very serious issues.
“We just don’t have enough information about this, without which it is hard to ensure adequate services are provided and that the people who need help are receiving it."
The report recommends that the Australian Bureau of Statistics include a set of questions in the Census of Population and Housing, commencing in 2016, to identify those households in which kinship carers have primary responsibility for children and the carer's relationship to that person.
The committee also recommends that the Federal Government, in co?operation with State and Territory Governments, examine increased and more certain funding for voluntary support groups which provide peer support to grandparents raising grandchildren and to better facilitate the establishment, maintenance and operations of these groups.
As well, it recommends that the Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services initiate a review of support provided to grandparents raising grandchildren as well as investigating a means of identifying kinship care arrangements in applications for Commonwealth benefits.
The committee has called on State and Territory Governments to consider extending foster care allowances to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren without orders from a court and to review the rates of financial assistance paid to grandparents as out?of?home carers, with particular consideration to addressing the disparity in financial support between foster carers and grandparents raising grandchildren.
The Federal Opposition commended the report saying the findings highlight that too many grandparent carers don’t know what supports are available or struggle to navigate the maze of services, supports and interviews to prove their claims.
“The report also reveals that many grandparent carers are struggling with the pressures of unexpected parenting responsibilities at a time when they had made plans for retirement, including changed financial and housing arrangements,” Shadow Minister for Carers Senator Claire Moore said.
“Labor recognises that like parents, grandparents who care for their children need support with the costs and challenges of raising children. Ensuring that this support is forthcoming will require a national effort; genuine and constructive engagement from Governments, child protection, social security and health systems and sectors, and the family court system.
“While the inquiry found that the number of grandparent raising grandchildren is increasing, it also showed that the data we have is inadequate,” Senator Moore said.
“Labor supports the inquiry’s recommendations for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Family Studies to be engaged to provide better statistics and longitudinal research on grandparent carers and their families.”
The Committee Report is available here.