Retirement Life

Fri, 18 May, 2018Melody Teh

Grandparents forced to sell homes and use super to care for their grandchildren

Grandparents forced to sell homes and use super to care for their grandchildren

Grandparents who have custody of their grandchildren – often amid concerns of domestic violence, drug abuse or neglect by the children’s parents – are struggling to make ends meet with many forced to sell their homes or dip into their superannuation just to ensure their grandchildren have a home to grow up in.

As grandparents are classified as kindship carers, they are not formally recognised for financial support from the NSW Government as they took custody of the children without the involvement of the state's Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).

If they had, grandparents would receive the same assistance as foster carers — worth between $484 and $733 a fortnight per child, depending on the child's age — and could apply for extra financial support.

Now support groups and not-for-profits are calling for a change in the law to treat grandparents the same as foster carers, noting that there is a growing number of families left without enough support.

"Mirabel know of more than 500 families across NSW and 300 of those at least are in the Hunter region, the Greater Hunter Region and I would say 300 of those are not receiving the allowance from the state agency," Mirabel Foundation support worker Karen Lizasoain told ABC News.

"We don't know how many families it is exactly, because no-one is getting those statistics of how many families are not being attended to by FACS.

"Often, the grandparents are retired or close to retirement age and many of them are living on an aged pension, some on [a] disability pension."

Ms Lizasoain believes the under-resourcing and funding of FACS is part of the problem as it forces grandparents to take matters in their own hands.

"If grandparents are concerned about their grandchildren and they report it to FACS, they report multiple times, they keep reporting, but nothing is done, and the children remain in danger," Ms Lizasoain said.

"Then they go in and they take the children into a safe place. If this happens, the state agency says that's good, the children are safe now, and they just leave that family alone with no help whatsoever."

In a statement, FACS said they do not have a role in informal arrangements.

"FACS does not have a role in informal family arrangements or Family Court orders where there are no child protection concerns," the department said.

"It is not appropriate for state child protection agencies to regulate family arrangements for the purpose of financial assistance.

"Providing financial support to families is the responsibility of the Australian Government via Centrelink."