‘Don’t be taken in’ by extra $25 GRG Founder warns
‘Don’t be taken in’ by extra $25 GRG Founder warns Grandparent and Whanau Carers
"Don’t be taken in by the Budget announcements for an extra $25 for beneficiaries with children if you are a full-time grandparent or whanau/kin carer,” warns Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand Founder Diane Vivian in the wake of last Thursday’s Budget announcements.
“Most full-time grandparent and kin caregivers are raising children when there has been a traumatic family breakdown due to serious issues with the parents. Methamphetamine along with other drugs and alcohol abuse, mental health and violence is usually the cause and the children typically have attachment disorders, special needs and mental health issues. The grandparent caregivers themselves often have age-related conditions affecting their own health. They are not spring chickens anymore and shouldn't be pressured into looking for work, when they are actually doing the same job as a foster carer looking after these vulnerable children," says Vivian.
“They should be receiving the Unsupported Child Benefit (UCB) but too often they are being told they would be better off on Sole Parent Support with Family Tax Credits when that's just plain wrong."
“We are really worried that now that the Government has increased the base rate for the main benefits including children by $25 per week, more and more grandparent and whanau/kin caregivers will be persuaded by some Work & Income staff to go on benefits other than the UCB."
"In a lot of cases we experience, the frontline staff give out the wrong information and seem to misunderstand the law causing enormous stress, anxiety and hardship for grandparent caregivers and the children," says Vivian.
“The UCB rates haven't been increased by this latest Budget. But the UCB is a stand-alone non-income tested benefit with additional grants available that are important for these children. It can mean the difference of an additional $400 to $550 per year per child for the beginning of the school year as well as a one-off Establishment Grant and eligibility for the discretionary Extraordinary Care Fund which can be $100-$2000 extra per year for a child," says GRG's Benefits Advocate Tricia Corin.
"Sole Parent beneficiaries aren't eligible for these extra grants. The UCB is also payable in addition to the person's income from wages/salary or benefit (except Sole Parent) and a working caregiver can also get the in-work tax credits which is increasing by $12.50 per week. But they are not eligible for the Family Tax Credits when they get the UCB and this is where a lot of confusion arises," says Corin.
“I can see the writing on the wall where Work and Income may confuse people by saying things like; ‘you will get more money if you are on a Sole Parent benefit’, and this is true on the face of it as the Sole Parent rate is higher than the Single person rate by about $90 per week. But what they often don't tell them is they would be eligible to get the UCB in addition to the Single Person rate which pays much more than the Family Tax Credits they get with the Sole Parent benefit. In some cases they don’t even tell them about the UCB at all," says Corin.
“The other serious concern we have is that if grandparent and kin caregivers are on the Sole Parent benefit they will be required to be available for work when the youngest child in their care turns three under these new changes, which simply isn’t appropriate in the vast majority of cases involving grandparent care," says Vivian
“Grandparent caregivers eligible for the UCB are doing the same job as Foster Carers and the Government should be changing and simplifying the benefits law to include a Carer’s benefit for grandparent, whanau/kin and foster caregivers to properly and fairly contribute to the support of our most vulnerable
children,” suggests Vivian. “At present it is just too confusing for everyone.”