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You may be aware of recent media releases relating to the future sustainability of Grandparents For Grandchildren SA, so I would like to take this opportunity to clarify any misconceptions by issuing the following statement.

Whilst the situation is a work in progress, I am requesting your strong and immediate support by asking you to contact the relevant Government Ministers, Government departments and the media, to express your feelings and demand action be taken to prevent this catastrophe.

Thank you in anticipation of your support. Please feel free to share this post!

Peter Biber

Grandparents For Grandchildren SA to close.

Hundreds of South Australian families, including many Aboriginal families who are caring for children at risk will be left with no support from July this year.

Peter Biber, CEO of Grandparents For Grandchildren SA Inc, a volunteer based organisation which recognises and supports informal carers, said today “Families who have been caring for children at risk for years without the benefit of court orders outnumber formal carers in our state and nation-wide.”

Grandparents For Grandchildren SA was advised Tuesday that their on-going arrangement with government which saw their operating expenses paid for was ending on 30 June, resulting in their forced closure.

The organisation, which has been operating for 15 years, providing financial, emotional and services support to grandparents and kinship carers will close its doors, leaving the 12,000 family members currently supported with no ongoing assistance available. The organisation receives calls from new families seeking support weekly. Their numbers have tripled in the past 12 months.

The closure could see many children forced into foster care as families struggle to cope with the financial, emotional trauma and legal issues surrounding caring for their grandchildren informally. 
Mr. Biber said “Unlike foster carers and formal kinship carers, grandparents and informal carers often go many years without accessing even Family Tax Benefit payments and receive no government support, using their superannuation or finding part-time work to provide a home and education for the children in their care.”

Grandparents For Grandchildren was instrumental in introducing the Informal Caregiver’s Statutory Declaration, now adapted and used nation-wide by non-statutory carers, giving informal carers the ability to enrol children in school and source medical care.

Mr. Biber said that his small team of volunteer staff was devastated at the news of their forced closure, particularly given their recent partnership with Nunkuwarrin Yunti and the development of support groups for Aboriginal grandparents.

“We have worked alongside the Aboriginal community to build a culture of trust by listening to what support they actually needed. We were looking at early-intervention strategies, all driven by Aboriginal grandparents to empower families and community to keep children safe. Those programs will now be left to wither on the vine.”

Grandparents For Grandchildren Principal Carer Advocate, Joanne Lauritsen is one of the close team being forced to turn their backs on a large number of grandparents and informal kinship carers who have reached out for help.

“Our carers, for many reasons, don’t want to engage with main-stream services or government departments. They are the ‘forgotten carers’, they fall through the cracks. If every one of our carers stopped what they were doing tomorrow, the state’s child protection system would be flooded with children needing foster care…they would end up back in motel rooms, siblings separated, the cost to the government would be overwhelming” said Ms. Lauritsen.

“The cost of keeping one child in out of home care is $466,000 per year. By supporting those informal carers by keeping children within family, the savings to government are in the millions. To keep our organisation going, we’re seeking the equivalent cost of keeping just two children per year in out of home care. It makes financial sense to keep us operating. An investment in the future of child protection in SA.”

Grandparents For Grandchildren has the infrastructure already in place. By independently sourcing donations and grants and partnering with like-minded groups and individuals it has developed a fully equipped purpose-built office space, client consultation rooms, facilitated training sessions, support groups and established a mobile outreach service, travelling through most of regional South Australia to personally speak to carers and meet with organisations and government departments. Regional and country visits are booked months in advance.

Grandparents For Grandchildren was in the process of researching and developing a respite care system, previously unavailable to grandparent and kinship carers, which would have provided a free or heavily subsidised service for short-term or emergency situations. Again, that project will be shelved due to the withdrawal of funding.

Mr. Biber, reflecting on the imminent closure, said he was disappointed at the lack of ongoing financial support from government citing the massive savings directly attributable to the organisation and the potential benefits to come from the forward-thinking, proactive team.

“Grandparents For Grandchildren has always placed the welfare of children above all else. By enabling and empowering families to remain together, children are more likely to develop into emotionally healthy, connected young people with more chance of achieving their full potential”, Mr Biber said,
“Years of work, stories shared, children helped – comes to an end now.”


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