Grandparent entitlements

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Q. Joan

Due to some poor life decisions by my 30-year-old daughter—an unplanned pregnancy, coupled with the inability to kick a drug habit—I suddenly find myself in the role of parent to my four-year-old grandson.

I am barely scraping by on my Age Pension, so what assistance is out there for a grandparent such as me?

A. Joan, sadly you are not alone. It is estimated that there are over 14,000 grandparent families, and 61 per cent of those grandparents are over 55 years of age. Whilst I understand the urgency of your financial position, the first course of action I would urge you to take is to legalise the arrangement you have as your grandson’s legal guardian. This will help to protect your rights and give your grandson some stability. If you can’t afford legal advice, you can access the free service offered by Community Legal Centres.

Next, you should get in contact with Centrelink as you may be entitled to Family Tax Benefit A, which is paid at a maximum rate of $164.64 per fortnight and is subject to an income test. If your adjusted taxable income is over $46,355 then you may have this payment reduced at a rate of 20 cents for each dollar over this amount until you reach the base rate of $52.64. The payment remains at this rate until your adjusted taxable income reaches $94,316 per year, at which point you lose the payment. If you qualify for Tax Benefit A then you may also get the Family Tax Benefit A Supplement of $726.35, which is paid after the end of the financial year, once you have submitted your tax return. If you are not required to submit a tax return, you should advise the Family Assistance Office of this.

In addition, as a single parent you will be entitled to Family Tax Benefit B, if your income is under $150,000 per annum and you care for your grandson at least 35 per cent of the time. As your grandson is under four years of age, this is currently paid at a rate of $140 per fortnight.

It may also be worthwhile considering some kind of childcare for your grandson, to give you some respite and also to allow him to socialise with other children. Grandparents can claim up to 50 hours of childcare per week, the full cost of which will be covered by the Grandparent Child Care Benefit. As a grandparent primary carer you will be exempt from any work or study test.

It’s also important to realise that, as the figures confirm, you are not alone. Many grandparents care for their grandchildren, if not all as primary carers, and there are obstacles to overcome in doing so. While grandchildren are a joy, as you get older the energy to care for a bouncy toddler may not be in abundance. Your social circle and financial position may also change, so it is important to connect with those who have similar experiences and can be there to help if needed. You can access details of grandparent support groups in your area through YOURLifeChoices website.

More information
National Association of Community Legal Centres
Are you a grandparent of relative caring for children?
Raising Children Network