Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Grandparents struggling

Goulburn Valley grandparents are facing increased financial pressures after becoming primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

June 9, 2014 4:30am

Goulburn Valley grandparents are facing increased financial pressures after becoming primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

Members of the Grandparents Support Group said many grandparents were only on the pension and some had even been forced to sell or remortgage businesses and houses to take on financial responsibility for their grandchildren.

One grandparent has even bought a caravan, financed from their pension, to assist with respite and care for their grandchildren and family members.

‘‘Financially it drains you. Children often need specialist or doctor’s appointments in Melbourne and grandparents are responsible for that,’’ group member Phame said.

‘‘I’d just retired and for three years I had to be a mother and all I wanted was to be a grandmother,’’ Sandra said.

A 2013 study by the University of New South Wales on grandparents caring for grandchildren found more than 70 per cent were financially disadvantaged and many relied on government support payments.

The report said many had to raise additional funds to pay for the grandchildren’s needs, by selling investments, drawing down savings, increasing their hours of employment or re-entering employment.

Many grandparents said it often took an extended time to get legal documents proving grandchildren were in their care, and without proper documentation it became even harder to claim care benefits.

‘‘Some parents have given up the care of the children to the grandparents and are still claiming the benefits,’’ Joan said.

Many said they’d encountered issues with service providers and organisations, and had trouble finding information about what their rights and benefits were.

‘‘Centrelink didn’t know how to deal with me ... they didn’t know which benefit to put me on or even if I was eligible for one,’’ Joan said.

‘‘I didn’t know which organisations I could go to for assistance,’’ Julie said.

Centrelink only introduced special grandparent advisers in October 2011 to help grandparents access payments and resources to assist them with caring for their grandchildren.

Grandparents say the financial stress also takes a toll on their physical and mental health. In the report, 62 per cent of grandparents said their health had deteriorated as a result of caring for their grandchildren.

Joan said a grandparent’s age often worked as a barrier, preventing them from interacting with other children’s parents.

‘‘You then become isolated. But support from the group helps, they understand exactly what you’re going through,’’ she said.

Members of the group encouraged any grandparents struggling with issues relating to raising grandchildren to come along to a meeting.

The group meets on the first Thursday of each month at 10am at Shepparton’s Family Relationship Centre, 68 Wyndham St. For more information, phone 58200444.

Surnames have been withheld to protect the privacy of families.

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