A Launceston grandmother is seeking more support for kinship carers after she was forced to send her grandson to school because she could not support him at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Angela Chamberlain recently underwent a kidney transplant and can't work due to her medical issues, but she has legal guardianship over her grandson Linkin.
They are discriminating against my grandson because of a suburb.Newstead grandmother Angela Chamberlain.
Ms Chamberlain said the pandemic had put a lot of pressure on her family and because of her myriad health issues and age, she was at high risk of contracting the disease.
However, she could not afford to buy her grandson a computer to facilitate his learning at home so she had no choice but to send him to school.
"It was a risk to me even leaving the house, I can't drive so we have to get taxis everywhere," Ms Chamberlain said.
"But we could not afford to get him a computer nor could we get any support anywhere."
Help not provided
Ms Chamberlain said she first reached out to her grandson's school to provide him with a device but was unable to secure one. She had also reached out to the Smith Family for support.
However, she said she was told that the not-for-profit organisation could only help vulnerable families from Launceston's northern suburbs.
"They are discriminating against my grandson because of a suburb," she claimed.
Ms Chamberlain and her grandson live in a private rental at Newstead but she had been on the Housing Tasmania waiting list for several months.
She said she was frustrated that she could not find help because she was a kinship carer.
Tasmanian grandparents do not get access to a government-funded Grandparent's Payment available in other states and Ms Chamberlain said because she had been granted legal guardianship of her grandson many years ago, without intervention from Child Protection Services, she was locked out of accessing other funding support streams.
"Because I am an informal carer I get nothing," she said.
Ms Chamberlain said she contacted her grandson's school, who said they could supply him with a device for learning at home but she couldn't afford to get the internet hooked up.
She said it was another example of the hardship many families in Tasmania, who struggled with the costs of devices and access to the internet, faced in term one when schools closed.
Not enough support
Because she can't work due to her health issues, Ms Chamberlain said she gets by on the JobSeeker payment, which has been a godsend due to the increased level provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I have to go to the physio every fortnight and usually I don't go because I can't afford it, but because the money has been increased I have been able to go," she said.
"It's been a godsend, it's meant so much to me and it's been good not only for my physical health but for my mental health too."
She said she did receive some funds to put towards a computer for her grandson, and managed, thanks to family, to rustle up enough money but when she went to buy one she was stumped again.
"We went in to buy one, and it wasn't going to be an expensive one, but we were told there weren't any computers left and the store wouldn't stock more again until July," she said.
Ms Chamberlain said her circumstances often left her feeling defeated because she felt there was no support anywhere for her and her grandson.
She said reform of the system was urgently needed to help support kinship carers like herself.
Charity wants change
A spokesperson from The Smith Family said the charity supported more than 2,500 Tasmanian students through the Learning for Life program.
"To achieve the best outcomes in this program we have to be place-based, meaning we work in the communities where the students we support go to school," the spokesperson said.
"This allows us to build strong relationships with their families, our partner schools and other local organisations. In Launceston, The Smith Family's partner schools are located in the northern suburbs."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The spokesperson said if a call for help came in from outside The Smith Family's partner schools, the caller would be referred to other appropriate services.
"The Smith Family is concerned about the educational outcomes of all Australian children and is acutely aware of the pressures placed on families during the COVID-19 pandemic - especially for those who don't have internet access," the spokesperson said.
"This is why we are calling for each student to have an internet-connected device, access to appropriate tech support, and for families to be connected to secure and reliable broadband internet. This way we can best address the cycle of disadvantage for current students as well as future generations."
Kinship carers who voluntarily care for children have access to support from the Australian Government, a Tasmanian Government spokesperson said.
"Grandparents who voluntarily care for grandchildren have additional access to short-term assistance to link carers with existing services in their community," the spokesperson said.
Centrelink payments, brokerage funding to cover the cost of essential items, parenting information and integrated family support services were available, according to the spokesperson.
"In cases where kinship care is formalised through a child protection order, carers receive payments from the Child Safety Service," the spokesperson said.
"The government has also recently announced a further $200,000 to establish an informal kinship carer liaison and support function."
Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer said she understood the circumstances of every family were different and presented a range of financial challenges.
"There is a range of federal government support available, depending on the circumstances, which provides assistance to support grandparents, legal guardians and other family members who provide full time care for a child," Ms Archer said.
"Support includes Family Tax Benefit or child care subsidies, depending on the age of the child."