Grandparents as Carers

About this Item
SubjectsChildren; Family; Aged
SpeakersBartlett Mr John
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 19197

    Mr JOHN BARTLETT (Port Stephens) [5.25 p.m.]: I recently came across a statistic that indicated that 21 per cent of children under the age of 11 years are now under the care of their grandparents. I undertook some research in this regard and found that at the beginning of the nineteenth century 4 per cent of the Australian population was aged over 65 years. By 2004 that number had risen to 13 per cent, and it is projected to rise even further. According to the September 2004 family characteristics survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2003 there were 22,500 Australian families in respect of which grandparents were the guardians of their grandchildren. An estimated 31,100 children aged up to 17 years were then under the guardianship of their grandparents. Based on a 2005 report, it is estimated that 18,000 of those children were in formal statutory care.

    I subsequently wrote to constituents in my electorate between the ages of 55 and 75 years and put to them that I had no right to know their business, and whether or not they were looking after their grandchildren, but if they would like to come to a meeting I would be happy to sit down with them and discuss some of the issues. During the past two months I have had meetings in Mayfield, Tomaree Peninsula, Tilligerry Peninsula, Medowie and Karuah. The interesting thing to come out of those meetings is that there is no real trend so far as the issues are concerned. There are clumps of issues, and an awful lot of issues. Grandparents are looking after their grandchildren for a variety of reasons: the death of their own child, illness on the part of their own child, postnatal depression, depression, irresponsibility, inability to cope and drug addiction are just some of the of reasons these grandparents have ended up caring for their grandchildren. There was a whole mix of arrangements. There was a formal court order arrangement and there appeared to be many informal arrangements where the Department of Community Services may or may not have been involved.

    I wish to address some of the issues discussed at the meetings. Some residents suggested the need for a playgroup for grandparents and their grandchildren. It was pointed out that in most playgroups grandparents were the oldest people in the room by far and there was not much interaction between the grandparents and the other people in the room. Also, the grandchild had the oldest person in the room looking after them. Port Stephens council is now looking at running playgroups for grandparents and their grandchildren. Other issues were also discussed. Terry of Warabrook said:

    … it would be very much in the interests of many children who are not covered by private health insurance for legislation to be enacted to permit grandparents to include those grandchildren in their private health insurance without any significant increase in premiums as for the most part grandparents pay family rates.

    At the meeting in Karuah we had interesting discussions about the changes to the welfare system that are to be implemented in June next year. In many cases, a single grandparent looks after the grandchildren. Grandparents who look after their grandchildren as part of a foster care arrangement—in other words, under a formal court order arrangement—receive a carer allowance of $364 per fortnight. However, a grandparent who is classified as a sole parent receives a Federal Government allowance. Despite having looked after their grandchildren for the past 11 years, in order to keep their sole parent allowance running, next year they have to find a job for 15 hours a week. Many issues along these lines were discussed at the meetings. One of the things that the groups decided to do was to form an association at the next meeting whereby they can meet with other people in the same situation and become a pressure group to assist grandparents who look after their grandchildren.