No help for dying child
SHIRLEY BINGE was the first person to hold her grand-daughter, and the last.
But the grieving grandmother, who divides her time between Brisbane and her family in Dunoon and Ballina, says the Department of Community Services left her to struggle alone while she cared for baby Tanishia while the child slowly died from a rare form of leukaemia.
Tanishia died aged 22 months in April.
DoCS has admitted there was a delay in getting any financial assistance to Ms Binge while Tanishia was in her care.
But the devoted grandmother is taking her anger all the way to the top. She has lodged a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman and is threatening to sue DoCS over its handling of the case.
“For three months I barely had enough food to feed my grandchildren,” she said.
“Every time I went to Centrelink and then DoCS, they claimed I needed to give proof that I was looking after the kids.”
Ms Binge said she often had to walk to Ballina Hospital - an hour's trip each way - with Tanishia suffering with breathing problems.
“Even if it was raining I had no other way of getting her to hospital,” she said.
“I asked DoCS to help with Tanishia's medication as I couldn't afford it, but they kept saying 'come back tomorrow'.
“I couldn't wait until tomorrow. Tanishia was dying,” she said.
“I was there when Tanishia was born and I was the first to hold her.
“I was also there when she died and I was the last to hold her.”
The only help Ms Binge says she received from DoCS was a $150 voucher to buy Christmas presents for her grandchildren in 2007.
A spokeswoman for DoCS said Ms Binge was eventually given $3000 towards the cost of caring for her dying granddaughter and two other grandchildren.
“It took time to clarify the exact time the children were in her care, due to conflicting information about whether the parents were residing in the home at the same time as the children, and complex family arrangements,” the spokeswoman said.
“Once this was clarified a payment of over $3000 was given to the grandmother for the three children.”
But Ms Binge said DoCS was not the only organisation she had battled.
Her daughter and young grand-daughter were placed in a condemned house in Ballina before she took over care of her grandchildren.
“First there were no locks on the doors and the place had rats, and I even found a snake in the laundry,” she said.