Request sparks anger

NORTH Coast grandparents who care for grandchildren full time have rejected a request by the State Government to report their adult children to the Child Support Agency to enforce maintenance payments.

Dona Graham, CEO of the Disability and Aged Information Service (DAISI), which currently supports more than 500 local families with children being cared for by grandparents, has questioned the government's actions.

"We appreciate that Family and Community Services is under budgetary pressure but it's no good targeting the people who are holding these families together and making them feel insecure."

The Family and Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, announced last month that birth parents would be expected to contribute to the cost of raising children placed with grandparents and other relatives.

Letters were then sent to grandparent carers encouraging them to contact the Child Support Agency so it could make automatic deductions from parents' salaries or welfare payments.

Ms Graham said the letter had the capacity to inflame what can be a tenuous and fraught situation in these families.

"The letter came on government letterhead so grandparents felt they were being instructed to seek money from their children.

"If there is conflict caused in the family by this policy then the victim is always the child."

One North Coast woman caring for a grandchild spoke to The Northern Star but due to the sensitivity of the situation she chose to remain anonymous.

"I saw a news report that the letter was coming in late November," she said. "I was contacted in early December and my daughter was contacted a few days after that.

"She was angry at the child support agency and that was the reaction of a lot of birth parents because they are hurting as well.

"I have no control over the situation and have no intention of getting in touch with the agency to seek a contribution.

"It made things worse rather than better.

"My daughter was just getting back on her feet and this was a blow.

"Most grandparents are grateful to look after their grandchildren and I don't know why the government would make it hard for us.

"We are all a bit disappointed with Ms Goward because she has not given us the support she promised when in opposition.

"We are trying to do our best - we could use some meaningful support rather than this heavy handed letter."

Ms Graham was herself raised by her grandparents due to family dysfunction.

"I think Family and Community Services should clarify the situation or, better still, put this whole business behind them and start again."

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