GRANDPARENTS: The NSW group Grandparents Doing It Tough are doing their to make it easier for grandparents looking after grandchildren.
GRANDPARENTS: The NSW group Grandparents Doing It Tough are doing their to make it easier for grandparents looking after grandchildren. Lyn Reilly

Foregoing retirement to raise second generation

GRANDPARENTS are being sandwiched between acting as parents to the younger generation and trying to help manage their own children's wellbeing.

Many have had to give up jobs, retirement and even their superannuation, to help their family.

Centacare South West NSW's facilitator of the its local Grandparents Doing It Tough support group, Lyn Reilly, sees the changing family dynamics on a regular basis and the impact it is having on grandparents as they strain to deal with all the legal and social issues associated with raising a much younger generation.

"Grandparents are being forced to take on the role of parenting a second generation because of the increase in drugs, particularly ice, and alcohol," Ms Reilly said.

"Sometimes it's suicide and sometimes the parents aren't in a position to raise their children so grandparents are being called upon to do that."

Leaning on a grandparent isn't necessarily an intentional act by many parents, it just seems that they assume grandparents will always be around to "take up the slack" Ms Reilly said.

"We are bringing up generations of more egocentric people where they are concerned more about themselves and what they need rather than perhaps what they need to provide as a parent," she said.

Another big issue for the grandparents are acutely aware of is mental health, particularly depression, among their younger generation.

Also, a word of warning to our community from Ms Reilly; young children are learning ways of parenting that are probably not appropriate. They grow up learning the behaviours of their parents, about unhealthy relationships and unhealthy lifestyles.

"If you don't learn anything different, then that's just how you do it," she said.

Ms Reilly said consequently, caring grandparents are starting to outnumber foster parents.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2016 Children in Care report identified that the number of children in out-of-home care has risen every year for the last 10 years. At June 30, 2015 there were 43,400 children living in out-of-home care, and of those children, 40.4% were in foster care while 47.3% were in relative/kinship care.

"The government at some stage is going to have to recognise them because there won't be enough foster carers," Ms Reilly stated.

Many grandparents she said have no government income to assist with the cost of raising a young child.

"They are raising them on pensions," she said.

"Our grandparent group here in Wagga are aged between 50 and 81, and raising between one and seven grandchildren per household.

"A fair percentage of these children have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder which results from alcohol exposure during pregnancy, and it's a lifelong condition."

Ms Reilly said grandparents can only access childcare benefits through Centrelink.

"This doesn't compensate for a grandparent on a pension, bringing up a child that has disabilities or other behavioural or mental health issues. They are having to pay for this out of their own pocket," she added.

Even if the child's situation goes to court and custody is awarded to the grandparent, if the Department of Family and Community Services aren't involved, the grandparent is still not eligible for an allowance.

"What we are asking for is, where FACS isn't involved, and if the court says a child is at risk, then grandparents can apply for some sort of funding, because they can't do it on fresh air."

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