Ageing population to require grandparent-friendly workplaces

GRANDPARENT leave, welfare, even respite services for stressed grannies are on the cards as Australian offices prepares for an army of older workers. GRANDPARENT leave, welfare, even respite services for stressed grannies are on the cards as Australian offices prepares for an army of older workers. National Seniors Australia has been working quietly with a number of government agencies, including Centrelink, to hammer out grandparent-friendly policies. The Federal Government and the Opposition will be pressed to include grandparent policies in platforms for the looming federal election. The Federal Government has already started the ball rolling, last month announcing grandparents who cared for a child would get the 18-week parental-leave payment in exceptional circumstances. But National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said with Federal Government pressure on older Australians to stay at their desks, an entire range of grandparent-friendly policies were needed. Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar. “You can’t encourage people to remain in the workplace without flexibility,” Mr O’Neill said. “And this idea is an example of that sort of flexibility and responsiveness – an area where employers can do something positive.” Included in policy proposals are the development of grandparent care liaison officers in Centrelink Offices throughout Australia. National Seniors also want to see emergency or discretionary payments to Grandparents carers (through Centrelink) where children are placed in care at short notice. Moves should also be made to provide “grandparent carers respite services,” allowing grandparent carers with medical conditions or demanding care needs a short rest. Queensland Council of Grandparents Chair Tracey Douglas said there was a desperate need for respite services but they needed to be developed in consultation with grandparents. “Grandparents need to be able to identify what they need because what happens to the children if the grandparents have to go into respite?” said Ms Douglas, who is a grandparent herself. “If the children are going into respite where do they go?” Ms Douglas, herself a grandparent, said the legal ramifications of respite services deterred grandparents who needed it. “If they have to access those respite facilities too often, it is likely to interfere in terms of their long-term custodial arrangements,” she said. “The Centrelink liaison officer plan is also a great idea. “While we encourage our grandparents at the moment to negotiate and talk to the Centrelink social workers, there’s still an issue about how they view going to Centrelink. “If there’s someone with a specific title in there, they’re probably more inclined to use it to their benefit.” With the over-60’s demographic soaring “grandparent families” are a rapidly rising social phenomenon with many western countries tailoring social policy to meet their needs. The 2005 Census put Australia’s “grandparent families” at 14,000 but National Seniors say that figures will explode in the next decade. The US Census suggests up to 4.5 million America children are being raised full time by grandparents while in Britain lawyers recently won a landmark case allowing a grandmother to claim the same financial support as a foster carer. St George Bank broke new ground three years ago when it came up with grandparent leave allowing 12 months unpaid leave in the first two years of an infant’s life while the Federal Opposition also went into the 2007 election with a grandparent leave policy. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show up to two thirds of grandparents caring for grandchildren rely on government pensions, benefits and allowances as their main income source. A National Seniors spokesman said older Australians were increasingly called in to look after children as a time of crisis. “They are suddenly expected to look after young children when they are unprepared for it,” the spokesman said. “They may need to buy new furniture or even something as simple as a child seat for a car, but that can be difficult on a pension. Source: The Courier Mail

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