Wanslea: Back to school challenging time for grandcarers

Wendy Ayres. Photo: Jon Hewson
Wendy Ayres. Photo: Jon Hewson

WHEN Wanslea senior social worker Wendy Ayres heard a grandmother raising her granddaughter was unable to afford a birthday present for the nine-year-old, she wanted to deliver one herself.

But it is just one of many stories Ms Ayres hears through her grandcare program work, which helps grandcarers apply for funding through the annual State Government Grandcarers Support Scheme payment.

It provides $400 for the first child and $250 per subsequent grandchild – but it is often the only financial support grandcarers receive.

“It’s not enough help but it’s an essential help,” Ms Ayres said.

“There’s a lot of expenses with school holidays, trying to keep kids occupied and on the back of trying to provide a nice Christmas Day.”

She said many grandcarers were on an aged or disability pension or retired, and the cessation of the Schoolkids Bonus by the Federal Government in 2016 was a huge blow.

“That was a huge help to grandparent carers. A lot of them really relied on that,” she said.

“I think they’re just constantly juggling. They’ll put off paying a bill so they can buy a couple of things from the school book list.”

Wanslea receives about 15 calls per day from grandcarers who are often struggling to pay bills and rent, along with school shoes, clothing and supplies.

Preliminary results from the grandparent carers research project found 62 per cent of the 295 grandcarers surveyed were living on $50,000 or less per year and half had trouble paying household bills.

Ms Ayres recounted one grandmother who did not know how she could afford to buy a $100 calculator her grandchild required for school.

Another was not buying crucial medication for herself in order to support her grandchild, while one woman and her eight-year-old granddaughter would sometimes go without dinner to make ends meet.

“We’ve had grandcarers who have been living in a car with the child,” she said.

“They don’t have liquid income coming in so often they’re drawing on their super or from money put aside she said.”

Liberal Senator Dean Smith is collecting donations of vouchers for school items, such as stationery, backpacks and shoes, on behalf of Wanslea, but Ms Ayres said their biggest aim was to ensure grandcarers received the same level of support as foster carers.

“There is nothing specifically designed to meet the needs of grandparents carers, except for the one-off scheme payment,” she said.

“You hear some remarkable stories. It’s a mixture of feeling sorrow…but the flip side of it is I’m constantly gobsmacked and inspired by how they manage.”

Drop off donations at 48 Ventnor Avenue in West Perth or call Wanslea communications officer Chrissie Easton on 9245 2441 or email CEaston@wanslea.asn.au.

Wanslea is also seeking grandcarers to contribute to the research survey at tinyurl.com/grandcarer.