Grandparent Advisers – 10 years of helping carers to step in when families need them most

Department of Human Services

This year is the 10th anniversary of Centrelink’s Grandparent Adviser program helping grandparents and other non parent carers with tailored support and information.

For a lot of Australians, being a grandparent means their main job is ‘spoiling the grandkids’. Old rules are set aside and at the end of the day, grandchildren can be handed back – and lie safe at home in their own beds.

For many other families, for many different reasons, grandparents or other non parent carers have stepped in to become the primary care givers to children.

Services Australia’s Grandparent Adviser Program helps these grandparents and other carers with tailored support and information.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the program and, perhaps not surprisingly, 2020 has also seen an increase in the number of calls coming through the dedicated phone line.

In March the Grandparent Adviser Line answered nearly 2,200 successful calls and since July, the line has on average, handled nearly 400 calls a week.

Polly Auld is one of Services Australia’s eight Grandparent Advisers. She is dedicated to helping grandparents, kinship and foster carers of children.

She helps people understand the payments and services they might be eligible for. She also helps with arranging appointments with specialist staff, supporting people to use our online services and linking them to local supports.

“A typical day can involve taking anywhere from 10 to 15 calls. Some can be 10 minutes, but regularly they are an hour or more,” Polly said.

“These are people who often haven’t had business with us in many years, if ever. They also haven’t had to navigate things like child care or schooling in the last 30 years, and a lot has changed since they last did. For example, I had one grandfather in his 70s needing a referral to community support to help organise the kind of internet his grandchild needed.”

Polly said the most rewarding aspect of her role as a Grandparent Adviser is helping someone from end-to-end, from the moment they first approach her for help, to getting all their supports in place.

“When I start with a new grandparent or carer, the first thing I tell them is they are not alone. There are so many people in a similar situation and there’s help and support for them the whole way,” she said.

“My priority is to get their payments and services sorted quickly and organise things like Medicare cards. This relieves a bit of that immediate pressure. Then I focus on getting them connected to support groups and help in their area.”

When coronavirus restrictions allow, Polly attends support groups for non parent carers. She said some grandparents often continued to attend groups even after they had stopped caring for a child, just so they could help others.

Grandparent Advisers are available to help all non parent carers, regardless of whether they are currently receiving payments or services from us.

There is a Grandparent Adviser in each state and territory. These staff regularly check in with each other for advice and support and to share the national workload.

“I really take my hat off to the team. They are each so empathetic and passionate about caring for their customers and getting the best result for them,” Polly said.

Any grandparent or non parent carer who has taken on a primary caring role for a child can reach out to their nearest available Grandparent Adviser by using the Freecall 1800 245 965 number. Messages left on the Grandparent Adviser phone line will be responded to within 48 hours.

In this podcast, Grandparent Adviser Polly talks about the support Services Australia’s Grandparent Advisers offer. She explains how people react to the service, why she loves her job and how people can access the support available.

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