- The Raising Grandchildren series looks at the challenges faced by grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren.
An informal grandparent kinship carer of a special-needs child waited more than eight months to receive Commonwealth financial assistance and was not told about the Centrelink Grandparent Advisors.
Grandmother Bronwyn Bowen took majority care of her 13-year-old granddaughter Telejah in August 2018 and immediately applied for Family Tax Benefits.
Their plight for Commonwealth assistance highlights some of the difficulty often faced by kinship carers when accessing government support.
Ms Bowen, who is not experienced in computers, said she was also not informed by Centrelink of the Grandparent Advisors service, a scheme where advisors help grandparents navigate Centrelink and other services.
"It was frustrating. I was only asking for what I was entitled to, and I was only asking to provide for my granddaughter," Ms Bowen said.
"I went to the Centrelink office in Launceston on two separate occasions and they said that there was nobody trained to help us face to face.
"So then we call many times and nobody can seem to tell us on the phone either. So what do you do?"
Ms Bowen said it took six months before Centrelink told her that she had to reapply and provide certain documentation, which Ms Bowen believed had already been supplied.
In April this year Family Tax Benefits, including back pay, was received by Ms Bowen.
Prior to this, the small family unit had been renting and living off Ms Bowen's disability support pension and carer's payment, totalling around $1260 a fortnight, which also paid for specialist medical bills for Telejah.
Kinship carer expert Meredith Kiraly said difficulty accessing the Grandparent Advisors system was common.
"It is a very overloaded scheme that got increased from six advisors to eight across the whole country... anyone in a kinship caring situation should be told about the service, but they are not always informed," she said.
One grandparent advisor exists for Tasmania, who is also shared with Victoria.
The Commonwealth Government offers a full range of family assistance payments to grandparent and kinship carers such as Family Tax Benefit, Parenting Payment, and Double Orphan Pension, where eligible, to help with the costs of raising children.
Family Tax Benefit Part B arrangements are also for grandparent and great grandparent carers with eligibility continuing where the youngest child is aged 13 to 18 years.
"Their entitlement to family assistance depends on a number of factors including family income," a departmental spokesman said.
"Importantly, Australian Government support is based on who has day to day care of children and not legal guardianship."
Grandparent and kinship carers can also obtain a non-income tested Foster Child Health Care Card for the children in their care. To be eligible an individual does not need to be a formal foster carer.
For more information on Government support for grandparent and kinship carers, visit Human Services or phone the Centrelink Grandparent Adviser Line on free call 1800 245 965.