Grandparent caregivers need greater support
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that If New Zealand’s new Ministry Oranga Tamariki is truly committed to supporting vulnerable children into better outcomes, then it must ensure that the older generation with grandchildren and mokopuna placed in their care must have access to the right kind of support, including adequate financial support, so that they too, don’t fall into poverty.
A good welfare system should prioritise ease of access to support for children in need. But Work and Income (WINZ) seems to operate upon a series of systemic barriers preventing many from accessing their entitlements, including grandparents who have children in their care. Currently, only one third of children in permanent grandparent care are receiving the full support available, depending on their pathway into care and their legal status. And many grandparents are struggling with the financial burden of being caregivers.
Oranga Tamariki now has the opportunity to remedy this situation. All children in care should be equally entitled to the support of the new Ministry to enable them to meet their potential, especially when many of them have high needs. Without grandparent caregivers, these children would be cared for in the much more expensive and less desirable context of stranger or residential care.
Recent research from Grandparents Raising Grandchildren highlights the deep ambivalence around the role of the state in relation to family life that leads to differential treatment among different groups of children. Depending on the pathway into care, some are perceived more as the state's responsibility, while others in similar situations are perceived as the family's responsibility.
“To respond effectively to child trauma within the child-centred framework proposed in the review changes, these somewhat superficial distinctions among groups of children should be challenged, as most children in these circumstances have had similarly traumatic histories and their grandparents are facing similar struggles,” said Dr Emily Keddell, CPAG’s child welfare spokesperson.
“The new Ministry intends to encourage and recruit more stranger caregivers, but it should not forget about kin carers who play a vital role in children's lives, as they can offer both safety and connection to wider kinship networks,” says Dr Keddell.
“Oranga Tamariki proposes increased supports for caregivers, and it is important these new supports are extended to all children in the permanent care of others, whether they are kin, stranger, have been right through the legal process, have a Family Group Conference plan, or whatever their legal status. Outcomes for children are strongly related to the quality of alternative care provided, and all care requires the same level of support.”