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Turner fights for grandparents raising children

Turner fights for grandparents raising children

The Government should give grandparents raising their grandchildren the same allowances that foster parents get, United Future family affairs spokeswoman Judy Turner said today.

"It's a huge inequity, and it is hitting the very people who pick up the pieces of their shattered families, and give their grandchildren a start in life," Mrs Turner said.

"The irony is that if they weren't related, and were simply foster parents, they would get more help; they would get supplementary allowances for uniforms, and for school fees.

"As it stands, they don't even get the unsupported child allowance that foster parents get.

"Now a grandchild doesn't cost any less to raise than a foster child, or your child or mine," she said.

Mrs Turner brought the plight of "thousands" of grandparents before Parliament this week, citing the case of a Mrs S who is raising her drug addict daughter's newborn baby.

"At first, Mrs S reasoned that this situation would be short term; that her daughter would use the time out to get her act together and return to take up her parental responsibilities," Mrs Turner told the House. "Five years later it was evident that this was not to be the case..."

Mrs Turner said the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren - who are often already severely traumatised by family breakdowns - was in the thousands.

If the Government cannot help with the emotional cost that these New Zealanders face, then it could certainly help with the financial cost, which often sees retirement savings reduced to nothing, she said.

In many ways, Mrs S was one of the lucky ones compared to many others she is in contact with through the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Charitable Trust, Mrs Turner said.

"She has not had to contend with her daughter, or her daughter's partner threatening her with violence to stop her applying for income assistance - which would alert the Winz to their false application for the domestic purposes benefit.

"She has not had to remortgage her home to cover costs, although there is nothing left of her retirement fund.

'The personal cost to these grandparents is immense. They find it difficult to sustain social connectedness, they are included less and less in the activities of their old friends, as it is difficult to participate with children in tow," she said.

Some 70 percent of those on the Trust's database faced court battles ranging in cost from $8000 to $15,000, fighting their own children for the ongoing custody and safety of their grandchildren.

"All I'm saying, is let's give a fair go to a very generous group of New Zealanders, who benefit not just their families, but society, by bringing up kids well at a time when they would normally be expecting to rest a little and enjoy life."

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