PRESIDENTS INTRODUCTION – December 2017.
Kin Raising Kids (Tasmania) Inc.is the new name for an organisation of kinship carers formerly known as KinCarers Tasmania Inc. A number of grandparents raising grandchildren from the Northwest Coast of Tasmania formed the group in order to advocate on behalf of kinship carers and the children and young people they care for.
Kinship Care is the fastest growing form of out of home care around the world and one that keeps children with their families. Unfortunately, Tasmania a leader in the early 1990s has failed to keep up with global trends in regard to kinship care resulting in grandparents and other kinship carers being disadvantaged in the current system.
For example, foster carers receive an adequate allowance to cover most costs of raising children in out of home care. There is no means test. They may also access Child Care for up to 50hrs a week.
‘Formal” Kinship Carers subject to means testing can get a similar allowance, but no training or protection. They do have access to Child Care.
‘Informal” Kinship Carers (the majority) receive no allowances unless the child is eligible for disability allowances.
Gateway here in Tasmania through Baptcare and Mission Australia, provide advice and moral support for 12 months. Uniting Care, with no additional funding allocation from the Government for informal kinship carers, provides an ongoing service. Children removed from their parents for whatever reasons are often traumatised and so are the grandparents, both need ongoing support.
If one goes through Child Protection and the often traumatic court procedures, one becomes a “formal”. If this process is not undertaken and the grandparents or other kin undertake the care of the child then this is considered “informal”.
The Federal Government allocation of the family tax benefits A & B is much more straight forward. If DHHS workers, Community Care workers and/or School principals confirm the grandparent has the child(ren) in their fulltime care the allocation is made, including informal carers.
In most cases it should be possible for the State Government to adopt a similar approach with perhaps the addition of a Statuary Declaration from the Carer, it would mean a lot less angst and distrust of the system. Many grandparents feel emotionally blackmailed when presented with children on the basis of take them or they go into a formal state care. Naturally almost all are accepted, no assistance offered, children no longer in danger so off the books – not good enough! With less time spent on court procedures the DHHS workers would be able spend more time on child protection. The money saved on lawyers and courts would go a long way towards supporting the children. It is unfair to take children from a dangerous/vulnerable situation and place them with say a pensioner barely able to support him or herself without some additional financial assistance. Despite this lack of support from government the outcomes for the majority of children cared for by grandparents and /or kin have proven to be far better than foster care.
Under Article 27 of the U.N. Convention on the Right of the Child 1990, ratified by Australia, relates to ensuring the child’s standard of living is adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development, In the above cases the child is removed from danger but locked into poverty thus the state fails its obligation to the spirit of Article 27. In the 1990s the Tasmanian Government held an enquiry into this problem and implemented some of the recommendations such as the $28 a fortnight allowance, this lasted about 25 years without any adjustments until it was recently scrapped. There was even $150 clothing allowance if you lived south of Oatlands, this has also been also scrapped. Tasmania has gone backwards and Tasmanian children are less equal Australians than mainlanders.
Ross Henderson President.