Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Conclusion

This road grandparents are on is long, hard, tough, bumpy, painful, soul‑destroying and exhausting, but much love, determination and courage is given by grandparents to raise healthy and happy grandchildren. This caring role has been pushed upon them by the inability of their own children to care and take responsibility for their children. Grandparent carers need moral support, emotional support and financial support from everyone in the community to raise these grandchildren so they are not a burden on the taxpayer but become role models in society in their adult lives.[1]

8.1        Throughout the inquiry, the committee heard many personal accounts of grandparents who have taken, or are taking, the primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren. For many grandparents, assumption of this responsibility has enormously complicated their lives, yet the grandparents who participated in the inquiry emphasised their love for and commitment to their grandchildren. The committee acknowledges these grandparents for providing their grandchildren with a loving and safe home in which to flourish and achieve their full potential.

8.2        As detailed in the evidence, the circumstances of the grandparents, as well as the grandchildren, entail significant challenges that are severely affecting the quality of life for grandparent‑headed families. The desperate circumstances of grandparents raising grandchildren need to be recognised and addressed.

8.3        Commonwealth, state and territory governments have been working together for several years to improve the lives of families involved in the family law, child protection and out-of-home care systems. The committee notes particularly the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) initiative, the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020 (Framework).

8.4        Much of what the committee has inquired into is relevant to the COAG's National Framework deliberations and this report contains recommendations which are intended to help shape proposals for consideration by the COAG. The committee considers that a collaborative approach is the best means to address the circumstances of grandparents raising grandchildren and the children for whom they care.

8.5        This chapter draws together a number of recommendations that largely focus on those matters which the committee believes should be brought to the attention of the states and territories, as well as the Australian Government, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Recommendations to the Australian Government

8.6        The committee makes the following recommendations in recognition of the increasing numbers of grandparents raising grandchildren in Australia:[2]

Recommendation 1

8.7        The committee recommends that:

8.8        The committee makes the following recommendation to improve grandparents raising grandchildren's access to Commonwealth financial assistance:[3]

Recommendation 2

8.9        The committee recommends that the Department of Human Services investigate means of identifying kinship care arrangements in applications for Commonwealth benefits, with a view to better identifying grandparent-headed families to whom financial support(s) should be provided, subject to any eligibility criteria.

8.10      The committee makes the following recommendation to ensure that the need for grandparent advisors is being met in high-demand and rural and regional service areas throughout Australia:[4]

Recommendation 3

8.11             The committee recommends that the Department of Human Services review the number and geographical allocation of grandparent advisor positions, with a view to ensuring:

8.12      The following recommendation is made with a view to encouraging increased funding for legal service providers and professional relationship services:[5] 

Recommendation 4

8.13      The committee recommends that the Australian Government considers:

8.14      The committee makes the following recommendation to enhance the provision of mental health services to grandparent-headed families:[6]

Recommendation 5

8.15      The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, investigate how access to and the availability of professional counselling services can be enhanced for grandparent‑headed families.

Enhanced data collection and statistics

8.16      The committee makes the following recommendations to better identify the incidence and circumstances of grandparent-headed families in Australia, and to plan appropriate supports and services for those families:[7]

Recommendation 6

8.17      The committee recommends that the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

Recommendation 7

8.18      The committee recommends that the Australian Institute of Family Studies:

to better inform government policies and practices which support grandparent-headed families.

Recommendations for consideration by states and territories

8.19      The committee makes the following recommendation to promote recognition of the role and contribution of grandparents raising grandchildren, and to facilitate greater awareness and understanding of grandparent care:[8]

Recommendation 8

8.20      The committee recommends that, the Australian Government, through the COAG process:

8.21      The committee acknowledges the role and contribution made by foster carers in the out-of-home care system. These carers are supported to varying degrees however, although kinship care is increasing throughout Australia, grandparents raising grandchildren do not receive supports and services equivalent to those provided to foster carers. The committee considers that this distinction should be eradicated on a national level:[9]

Recommendation 9

8.22      The committee recommends that state and territory governments consider:

Recommendation 10

8.23      The committee recommends that state and territory governments consider:

8.24      The following recommendation is made with a view to encouraging increased funding and more certain funding for voluntary support groups:[10]  

Recommendation 11

8.25      The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in co‑operation with state and territory governments, examine increased and more certain funding for voluntary support groups which provide peer support to grandparents raising grandchildren to better facilitate the establishment, maintenance and operations of such groups.

8.26      The committee makes the following two recommendations to improve educational outcomes for children in out-of-home care, and to encourage the provision of informed and sensitive supports and services to grandparents raising grandchildren:[11]

Recommendation 12

8.27      The committee recommends that the COAG give attention to:

Recommendation 13

8.28      The committee recommends that the COAG Education Council initiates a review into the practical supports and services that could be provided to children in out-of-home care (including grandparents raising grandchildren), to promote positive outcomes in education.

8.29      Acknowledging that a lack of knowledge prevents grandparents raising grandchildren from accessing supports and services, and disempowers them, the committee makes the following recommendation:[12]

Recommendation 14

8.30      The committee recommends that the COAG, in conjunction with state‑based community service providers:

8.31      The committee makes the following recommendation to enhance support for grandparent-headed families with physical and mental health needs:[13]

Recommendation 15

8.32      The committee recommends that, through the COAG Health Council, governments consider enhancing the provision of mental health services for grandparent-headed families, with special attention given to grandchildren affected by trauma.

8.33      The committee makes the following recommendation in regards to the Framework:

Recommendation 16

8.34      The committee recommends that:

8.35      To address the specific needs of informal grandparents raising grandchildren, the committee makes the following two recommendations to more consistently recognise informal care status and to improve access to justice (particularly in the federal family law courts):[14]

Recommendation 17

8.36      The committee recommends that the COAG:

Recommendation 18

8.37      The committee recommends that state and territory governments reconsider Recommendation 19-3 of the Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission's joint report Family Violence–a National Legal Response, to enhance the assistance provided by child protection authorities to grandparents rearing grandchildren in the family law jurisdiction.

 

Senator Rachel Siewert
Chair

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