Are you a grandparent caring for grandchildren?

You asked and we listened! Chantelle wrote to WYZA asking for an article about grandparents who have become the primary caregivers to their grandchildren.

“I’d like to see more articles dedicated to grandparents who suddenly have to look after their grandchildren permanently and what services are available to them.” - Chanelle

We investigated, and there are a number of support outlets available. Let us know what you think and what you want to read more about. Email us at: admin@wyza.com.au

There is a growing trend towards grandparents becoming primary caregivers of children. One reason is because of a growing preference for kinship care. Many more grandparents act in this capacity than it is acknowledged.

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported up to 16,000 families where the grandparent provided primary care to a child or children aged between 0 and 17 years. If these numbers seem a little low, it’s because we all know they don't reflect the actual number of grandparents providing primary care. Indeed, a large portion of cases go unreported due to cultural issues. This is particularly prevalent in indigenous communities for example where grandparents are simply expected to provide care.

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Parenting can be a tough job for senior caregivers

Caring for your grandchildren can be an exceedingly rewarding experience. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and hurdles. Many grandparents fear they no longer possess the boundless energy essential for raising happy and well-adjusted children. However, remember, you do have the wisdom that first time parents can only dream of.

In fact, grandparents have more to offer than they might imagine.

There are a number of other factors to contend with. The age of the child/children, temperament and societal/background issues, are just a few. At times, the role of caregiver can be overwhelming, but the good news is, there are services available to help.

In terms of government support, a number of options can be accessed.

Government Support Groups

Child Care Benefit 
CCB assists primary caregivers with the costs associated with childcare, which covers what is referred to as ‘informal childcare provided by grandparents, relatives, friends, neighbours or nannies’.

Grandparent Child Care Benefit
This fiscal arrangement pays for the full amount of approved childcare up to 50 hours per child every week. Great-grandparents, in addition to ex-partners of grandparents who supplied primary care to their grandchildren, are permitted to access this service. However, you must first apply for, and successfully claim, the Child Care Benefit

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Australia offers countless support groups and services for grandparents who have become primary caregivers

Child Care Rebate
Half of all out of pocket expenses are covered (within annual limits). A work, training and study test is a prerequisite, and looks at your work-related commitments (paid or otherwise). 

Family Tax Benefit
Aiding the cost of raising the grandchild/grandchildren. An income test must be undertaken before this benefit can be released, and the grandparent must provide care for at least 35% of the time. However, if your grandchild is receiving Youth Allowance, you will not be entitled to this payment.

Community Support Groups

While government assistance is fabulous, it doesn’t offer the personal and community support vital to the wellbeing of carers. Some grandparents feel isolated in their new roles, particularly when few – if any – of their friends are in the same position. It’s important to remember that connecting with likeminded individuals who can relate to what you’re going through can be as important as financial support.

Marymead, ACT
Marymead is a well-loved not-for-profit organisation that has been servicing the ACT for almost 50 years. Today, it supports young people and their grandfamilies via a number of services.

Kinship Care, NSW and Victoria
Kinship Care, NSW and Victoria offers services such as:

  • Peer Support Groups.
  • Community Forums. 
  • Financial counselling and legal advice: including guidance on government payment and supplements. Social Networking: to encourage interaction and communication between grandparents in the local area. 
  • Referrals to agencies related to Health and Housing, Centrelink, Youth and Disability Services and Legal Assistance. 
  • Workshops: grief management, coping skills, respite care, childhood development and learning, education issues, dealing with drug/alcohol issues and a guide to accessing legal assistance.

Kinship Care is an incredibly welcoming organisation always interested in the formation of new groups. For more information on starting a group in NSW, contact Barbara on (02) 4969 7886 or 0429 914 553. Alternatively, drop her a line at kinshipcare@samaritans.org.au

Grandparents for Grandchildren (GFGSA), SA  
GFGSA deals with social justice issues related to grandparents raising grandchildren, and the increasing demands the role entails. It aims to raise awareness within the communit y and all levels of government, as well as offering information and relevant support services to boost the welfare of at-risk children. The organisation petitions tirelessly for Federal and State laws and legislation to be changed to help grand-families. Don't miss the monthly information sessions with a guest speaker.

The Grandcarers Support Scheme, WA
Grandfamilies in Western Australia may be eligible for the government-funded Grandcarers Support Scheme. The scheme offers a yearly support payment to grandparents in full-time care roles, and acknowledges the hardships (financial and emotional) associated with the arrangement.

To find out if you are entitled, or to apply, visit www.wanslea.com.au or call 1800 794 909 and request an application.

You can download a copy of the Grandfamilies Guide here. The guide outlines a number of services and organisations helping grandparents who care for their grandchildren. Information relating to legal and custody issues, education and financial assistance and concessions can also be found in this document.

For a full list of services available around the country, visit raisingchildren.net.au.

Reference: Vicki Cowling, Mary V. Seeman, and Michael Gopfert, Chapter 23, Parental Psychiatric Disorder: Distressed Parents and their Families, 3rd edn. ed. Reupert et al. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Are you a grandparent caring for your grandchildren? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below, or on social media.