Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

'Pennies from heaven' bring tears

Grandmother and foster mother Diane Vivian (right) with granddaughter Danielle Vivian, 19, will appreciate the financial help. Picture / Brett Phibbs
Grandmother and foster mother Diane Vivian (right) with granddaughter Danielle Vivian, 19, will appreciate the financial help. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Grandparents raising grandchildren are set to get more financial assistance from the Government as part of sweeping changes within New Zealand's child protection services.

The announcement brought tears to the eyes of one grandmother who has been caring for her own grandchildren for 15 years.

"Pennies from heaven - that's what this would be. You've got no idea the difference this will make," said Diane Vivian.

"That's fantastic, it's something we've been lobbying for for 13 years."

Mrs Vivian took over the care of her two young and "traumatised" grandchildren in 1997 and after struggling to find help and support, founded the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust two years later.

She has been pushing for grandparents in her position to be eligible for the same financial assistance as non-family foster carers ever since.

Foster carers get an allowance and additional funds to cover items such as clothing. Grandparents caring for grandchildren, while doing the same job, have not been entitled to the same.

But that is all set to change with "additional targeted assistance" to be given to carers like Mrs Vivian.

"That will make a huge difference," she said.

Mrs Vivian said some grandparents were looking after up to 10 of their grandchildren. Some were going without medication to ensure the children got school uniforms and others were making do on the barest essentials.

"You get paid the Unsupported Child's Benefit, but that's not a lot, considering it's got to cover everything in that child's existence. Foster carers get given money quarterly for clothing. All of these children suffer the same. They all have the same issues. Why are ours treated differently? All children deserve all the help they can possibly get.

"I'd die a happy woman if this happened. It's money that is so desperately needed."

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust chief executive Geoff Lawson said anything that helped grandparents in Mrs Vivian's situation was "fantastic".

"Any way that we can do better by them is significant for us and any additional funding can only help.

"I am absolutely delighted that the Government has seen fit to provide assistance in a much needed area. There are so many grandparents struggling financially to provide a normal life for these children - many of whom have been traumatised, neglected, abused and ended up with their loving grandparents."

Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett said she hoped the support would build up over time.

- NZ Herald

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