Study shows chal­lenges fac­ing ‘grand­car­ers’

Stirling Times - - Front Page - Laura Pond

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.”


Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey­mu­ni­ d489561

Grand­car­ers Liz Lee, Sharyne De Young, Raewyn Watene, Jan Standen and Kaye Ben­dle.

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