Grandcarers: Lawyer calls for greater legal support

Lawyer Gabrielle de Roberto wants more support for grandcarers. Picture: Martin Kennealey
Lawyer Gabrielle de Roberto wants more support for grandcarers. Picture: Martin Kennealey

LAWYER Gabrielle De Roberto sees a desperate need for greater support for grandcarers.

She has been providing pro bono legal advice through Wanslea for four years, where she helps grandparents navigate the confusing and expensive legal system.

“The grandparents at the moment aren’t getting represented by Legal Aid,” she said.

“(Family court) is a huge undertaking; it’s traumatic sometimes.”

Ms De Roberto runs law firm De Roberto Legal with her sister Danielle, who also offers her services free to Wanslea, and became involved after their mother began volunteering with the organisation.

The number of grandcarers accessing legal advice through Wanslea has increased significantly in the past three years from about 50 in 2015 to more than 220 last year.

Ms De Roberto attributed the increasing number of grandcarers to methamphetamine use and said in most cases she dealt with, parents were unable to care for their children because of drug or mental health issues.

Often parents did not want to sign over parental responsibility to the grandparents because they would lose their financial benefits.

In some cases parents were unable to be contacted for mediation, sometimes children would want to stay with their parents despite it being unsafe and occasionally both parties would agree on custody arrangements.

“The more you get exposed to it, the more you realise it’s a complex issue,” Ms De Roberto said.

“I find (grandcarers) to be so strong. They just seem to soldier on.”

Ms De Roberto believed there was a serious lack of Federal Government and accessible legal support for grandcarers.

“They’re just expected to look after kids without any financial support,” she said.

“There’s literally no appreciation for them. I don’t think the Government is acknowledging of the work they do.”

She said this shortcoming would cause future issues as the number of grandcarers increased and urged other lawyers to provide free or reduced cost legal advice through Wanslea.

“They’re really targeting an area the government is failing to,” she said.

“They don’t have anywhere else to go; they’re navigating the legal system on their own.”

If you can help, call Wanslea operations manager Kati Francis on 9245 2441 or email kfrancis@wanslea.asn.au.

There are more than 2000 grandcarers in WA but they do not receive the same recognition or financial support as foster carers.

Community News is joining Wanslea’s campaign during the Federal Election to achieve better support and funding.

Follow @WansleaFosterCare on Facebook or email ceaston@wanslea.asn.au to back the cause.

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