The axing of a key support worker’s job could endanger dozens of Hunter grandparents as they struggle to keep their grandchildren safe from drug-addicted parents.
These fears from grandparents and support groups were made known to the Mercury this week after federal government funding for a key kinship care worker ceased.
The support worker, Karen Lizasoain, has been acclaimed for the effort she made over eight years, escorting grandparents to court cases and to various state and federal government offices.
Ms Lizasoain has been the sole Hunter kinship care worker, running a lifeline service to 11 grandparent support groups and carers for 500 families.
Now grandparents struggling to support their grandchildren will be limited to receiving advice on the telephone just two days a week, with funding from the Samaritans.
The Samaritans previously ran Ms Lizasoain’s service for $100,000 a year with government funding.
“With our government funding gone, we will still continue to support grandparents using our own fund-raising income for a couple of days a week,” Samaritans chief executive Cec Shevels said.
“This will be over the telephone – we cannot provide the fabulous support Ms Lizasoain was able to give.”
“I fear many grandchildren will be in danger now as parents take their kids away from their grandparents,” Ms Lizasoain told the Mercury.
“So many of these young kids will be in peril – as well as their grandparents.
“Drug addiction – especially the ice epidemic – has become a major problem and addicts are using their children as chattels as they battle for control of their kids.
“I fear many grandparents will increasingly become victims of domestic violence as they have no one to turn to for advice on how to cope.”
Bev Steggles, a volunteer for the Central Coast/Hunter Valley Grandparents Support Group, said the loss of Ms Lizasoain’s services would be drastic.
“She was invaluable – taking grandparents to court cases and to all the family and community services that were available,” Ms Steggles said.
“Some grandparents are assaulted by their children, many of whom are on drugs.
“We fear the whole grandparent support group service might now fold.
“Karen was the lynch pin who held it all together.”
The job has become so much harder now
Without the help from grandparent support groups, many grandchildren would either be in government institutions – or dead.
This is the views of East Maitland grandparents Mervyn and Jean Brunner, who at times have supported three of their grandchildren, whose parents were fighting drug addictions.
The couple have both been assaulted by their grandchildren at different times during their battle to support those children.
“With the loss of Karen Lizasoain, the job facing grandparents trying to raise their grandchildren has become so much harder,” Mr Brunner told the Mercury.
“We have raised three grandchildren over the last five-and-a-half years. Both their parents had drug problems,” Mr Brunner said.
“I had been working at Cobar and Jean and I came to Maitland to help our grandchildren.
“We were having real trouble dealing with different government agencies and other groups.
“We didn’t know who to contact or where to go to see the right people who could help us.
“It was as if everyone was trying to block us and we didn’t know where to turn.
“Then we found Karen Lizasoain. If it was not for her expertise and help, we would never have discovered what funding was available to us, or how to cope with different court cases.
“We have now been keen members of the East Maitland Pine Tree Grandparents Support Group for the past 12 months.”