Study shows challenges facing ‘grandcarers’
JAN Standen thought her retirement would be filled with holidays and leisure time, but instead she has been raising her three grandchildren.
The 70-year-old Heathridge resident is like many other ‘hidden’ West Australians who care for their grandchildren fulltime, often known as grandcarers.
“You could say we are the forgotten people,” she said.
“Not a lot of us would have thought we’d be in this position, but we would not change it for the world.”
Ms Standen was one of 295 grandcarers who took part in a study run by Scarborough-based family services provider Wanslea with Curtin University and ECU.
The Lotterywest-funded study aimed to identify the needs of grandcarers and gaps in social policy and service provision, providing a basis on which to lobby State and Federal governments.
The two university research teams presented their preliminary findings last week, which Wanslea research manager Katrina Stratton said identified a “complex web of issues” facing grandcarers, including emotional, financial, social and family.
“Grandparents caring for their grandchildren is the fastest-growing type of care in Australia,” she said.
About one-third of survey participants were living in rental accommodation, 62 per cent were living on $50,000 or less per year and half could not pay their bills on time.
It also found they cared for an average of three children and while the majority were satisfied with their role, 26 per cent found satisfaction was irrelevant because they felt they did not have a choice.
The results are unsurprising for Ms Standen, who began caring for her then 16-year-old grandson in 2010 and his two younger siblings in 2013 when their parents could not because of drug and mental health issues.
“It’s been a very hard slog,” she said.
“Everyone’s story is different but everyone’s story is traumatic.”
She said the inequality, as they did not receive the same benefits as carers arranged by the Department of Child Protection, was a major concern for the 90 per cent who were ‘informal’ kinship carers.
Ms Standen said most carers were on an aged care pension and those who tried to return to work struggled to find employment.
“We don’t do it for the money, we do it to give our kids a better life,” she said.
“But grandcarers face dreadful financial stress.”
The study requires an additional 205 grandparents to complete the survey.
“It’s vital that they do it,” Ms Standen said.
“We need to make some changes.”
Grandcarers Liz Lee, Sharyne De Young, Raewyn Watene, Jan Standen and Kaye Bendle.