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“But still the children wait”

“But still the children wait”

Last week Parliament passed the Social Security Act (Clothing Allowances for Orphans and Unsupported Children) Amendment Bill, a private members bill sponsored by New Zealand First’s MP and Deputy Leader Tracey Martin.

The Bill means that unsupported children and orphans will receive a clothing allowance of between $1000 and $1685 per year per child but it won’t come into effect until 2018.Foster carers already receive this level of financial support for clothing plus extra allowances to cover health and education costs, including doctor’s visits, prescription costs, dental work, school costs like compulsory fees, camps and stationery and other necessary costs.

“This is an important milestone in the fight for the recognition of grandparent and whanau caregivers who are doing the same job as foster carers,” says Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust Founder and Executive Trustee Diane Vivian.

“We are thrilled that Parliament has supported it and we really appreciate Tracey Martin’s work sponsoring this change to the law. But still the children wait! 2018 for heavens sake! For some this change to the law will come too late. ” says Mrs Vivian.

“This has been such a long and hard fought struggle for thousands of caregivers of vulnerable children.So many of our grandparent caregivers are barely making ends meet while raising teenagers and for them 2018 will be three years too late.

“Have you ever tried to feed a 15 year old growing boy? Some of our grands are putting their grandchildren’s needs before their own at the risk of their own health and wellbeing. Many of these kids need extra support from professionals because of the trauma they suffered before coming into care. All of it costs money and for too many there is no money to cover it so they go without. If Parliament thinks this clothing allowance for these children is worthy, which it clearly does, why the wait?” asks Mrs Vivian.

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“Don’t get me wrong. We are really thrilled and appreciate that the Government has made a number of important changes to the financial support for vulnerable children in grandparent and whanau care, but these caregivers are doing the same job as foster carers at a later stage in life with far less financial support than they actually need which causes considerable stress and hardship,” she explains.

In 2009 the Unsupported Child and Orphans Benefit rates were increased to the same base rates as foster caregivers’ board payments and in 2014 the former Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett introduced the Establishment Grant, School Year Start-Up payments and discretionary Extraordinary Care Fund. These financial support packages have been budgeted for four years until 2018.

“We sincerely hope that this 2018 implementation date for the Clothing Allowances doesn’t spell the end of the initiatives Paula Bennett introduced. They have made a significant and positive difference for so many caregivers – especially at the start of the caregiving journey and at the start of each school year.

“Ultimately we urge the Government to consider reviewing the benefits and introducing a specific universal Carer’s Benefit for those caregivers raising the vulnerable fostered, unsupported and orphaned children in our society,” says Mrs Vivian.

ENDS

For further information and interview opportunities contact:

Kate Bundle, Communications & Business Development Manager, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ Mob: 027 2446763 Email: kate@grg.org.nz Website: www.grg.org.nz Like us at: www.facebook.com/grg.org.nz

ENDS

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