Western Australian grandparents who have taken on full-time care of their grandchildren are being offered the opportunity to take a break thanks to the State Government.
Communities Minister Sue Ellery said the ‘Grandfamilies Support Initiatives Grants Program’ was offering grants of up to $15,000 for community groups to provide respite for grandparents who were raising their grandchildren.
“Grandparents sometimes take on the role of primary carers of their grandchildren when the parents are no longer able to fulfil their parental responsibilities,” Ms Ellery said.
“Parents may not be able to care for their children for a number of reasons, including substance abuse; death of a parent; disability or mental illness; imprisonment; family violence; and child abuse, neglect or abandonment.
“When the grandparents become the parents, the relationship they have with their grandchildren becomes very special and obviously much closer than that of other grandparents and grandchildren.
“However, as an older person, caring for children full-time can be difficult. Stress, exhaustion and illness are frequently reported by grandparent carers.
“Both the grandparents and the grandchildren need time out, and that is why the Government has been pleased to be able to help by funding this program to the tune of $150,000 over the past two years.”
Ms Ellery said the money would allow community organisations to help individual families, small or large groups of families, or groups of grandchildren and grandparents separately.
Last year’s breaks included:
· Bridgetown Family and Community Centre Inc - a trip to Bunbury for a movie and coffee and cake, a bus trip to Margaret River for lunch and another trip to Busselton for a Christmas picnic lunch;
· Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation - a mid-week sail for grandparents, a Friday twilight sail for grandchildren and a weekend sail for grandfamilies; and
· Wanslea Family Services - a Fairbridge Retreat, a river cruise for grandparents in the Swan Valley and a farm stay for grandfamilies.
Grandparents Ralph and Sue Phillips, who are raising their three grandchildren, have participated in previous grandfamily activities offered by Wanslea.
“We are rewarded every day by looking after our son’s three children while he is unable to care for them, but sometimes it is really great to have a rest,” Mr Phillips said.
“Taking part in these programs really helps us to take some time out, appreciate our situation, and have a great time.”
Ms Ellery said it was important to recognise and reward grandparent carers because of the valuable contribution they made to the whole community.
“They provide family continuity and a secure and stable environment for children who may be traumatised by the circumstances that brought them there and they prevent the children from going into State care,” she said.
In addition to the grandfamilies grants program, the Department for Communities supports grandparent carers through:
· funding of $147,000 for Wanslea Family Services for the Grandcare program, which involves the 1800 008 323 phone number for grandfamilies to access information, support and referral. The program has seen several grandparent support groups set up in the metropolitan area and two in the country (Albany and Mandurah);
· a Grandfamilies publication containing information for grandparents about the services and supports that can help them with the full-time care of their grandchildren. The resource is available at http://www.seniors.wa.gov.au and at local councils and relevant community groups.
Applications for the ‘Grandfamilies Support Initiatives Grants Program’ close on March 28. Application forms are available at http:www.seniors.wa.gov.au or by phoning 6217 8500 or 1800 281 116 (toll free).
Minister's office - 9213 7150