Children's caregivers given a $35m boost

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013

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Extended family members who care for children who are not their own will get an extra $35 million in benefits.

More than 12,400 kids in New Zealand are cared for by relatives, often grandparents, when their parents are either incapable or unwilling to raise them, often due to drug use, violence, neglect and mental health issues.

Around 8500 foster parents already receive an unsupported child benefit, with the Government paying out about $111.5m between July 2011 and July 2012.

But many say the money is not enough.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the funding package would include a one-off establishment grant of $350 when a carer takes a child into their home.

It also includes a "start-of-year payment" ranging between $400 for kids under five and $550 for children over 14, to relieve caregivers having to buy school uniforms and pay fees.

The ministry will also set up a discretionary extraordinary care fund of up to $2000 a year for children with significant difficulties, or who show promise.

It will be available in July 2014.

Bonnie Williams, a support group co-ordinator for Birkenhead-based Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ, says the money will go a long way to helping grandparents on limited incomes raise their grandchildren. Ms Williams, 69, has been supporting her intellectually and mentally disabled 20-year-old granddaughter since she was a baby.

"People like me aren't going to reap a lot of the benefits with the new stuff, but over the years we have spent our life savings on supporting our grandchild.

"The stresses are huge on families," she says.

"Money is a big thing because our children need counselling, special needs help and special education," sehs ays.

She says many of the kids in care had never known new clothes.

Applications for start-of-the-year payments will open on January 13.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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