A federal Senate Committee inquiry is looking at the challenges grandparents who care for their grandchildren face, along with the support they need.
At its first public hearing in Melbourne today, the Mirabel Foundation warned many grandparents face old age in poverty having exhausted their savings caring for their grandchildren.
The Foundation’s Nicole Patten said there was no support beyond the standard Centrelink payments for grandparents raising grandchildren.
“It means they’re using the savings they had put away for retirement,” Ms Patten said.
The Australian Foster Care Association said grandparents who are struggling to cope can be afraid to reach out for help.
The Association’s Bev Orr said there is a fear of stigmatisation.
“Particularly where their children may be living with grandparents for things that may be perceived as socially unacceptable, such as family breakdown, mental health breakdown, substance abuse,” she said.
Grandparents often find themselves caring for their grandchildren in traumatic circumstances.
Grandparents Australia said the health and wellbeing of aged grandparents can be neglected as the needs of grandchildren are put first.
Director Anne McLeish said there needs to be greater support for ageing grandparents.
“Although they are coping they do need, I think, special support from the community to fulfil their role properly and healthy,” she said.
SBS has also learnt some grandparents were put off filing submissions to the inquiry, fearing retribution from family or adverse reactions from child protection services.
The Australian Foster Care Association said it had received abuse over its submission.
“We’ve had some grandparents come back to us and criticise us, saying that we’ve done grandparenting a gross disservice because grandparenting is a wonderful experience,” Ms Orr said.