[Sub ID 4116] Kinship carers online support service (University of Melbourne Dept of Social Work)

Submission ID: 4116
Organisation name: University of Melbourne Dept of Social Work
Contact name: Dr Meredith Kiraly
State: VIC
Contact email: mkiraly@unimelb.edu.au
Contact number: 0400913659

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young carers

What need or issue are you trying to address?
The University of Melbourne young kinship carers research project has identified through census data that there are up to 50,000 Australian kinship carers aged 30 or under,i.e. young people with 24/7 care responsibilities for children from their extended family &/or community network. Indigenous and CALD young people are over-represented. Most of these care arrangements are informal. The majority of the 20 young kinship carers interviewed to date had given up study or work in order to care for the additional children. Challenges described include poverty; crowded housing; being a sole carer; raising their own children as well as additional children; issues with children’s parents with drug dependencies; and difficulties managing traumatised children. Studies of sibling kinship carers in the UK are consistent with these findings. Young kinship carers in our study also described barriers to study and work, including lack of professional, social and emotional support; and inability to afford costs of child care, study fees and materials, and transport. Young kinship carers are not included in the established definition of young carers; young carers are defined as young people caring for family members with a disability whether part-time or full-time.

What is your idea?
We wish to pilot a national service to provide supports to young kinship carers to make study and workforce participation more feasible. The pilot support service would be accessed via a dedicated webpage.

Telephone contact would be provided by an experienced kinship care support worker initially one afternoon and evening per week, with capacity to grow with demand. The support worker would assist with issues relating to: children’s individual needs; information about the effects of trauma on children; challenges of parental contact and extended family relationships in the context of trauma; role conflict; practical issues relating to living on a low income; referrals to other services as appropriate.

An Online Discussion Group would provide peer support for young kinship carers including the exchange of ideas about child care, family conflict, challenges of return to study or work while maintaining care for the children, etc etc.

Financial assistance packages would provide for specific study or employment related costs such as child care, transport, study fees, computers and other study materials upon receipt of appropriate evidence of need and study or employment opportunities. Financial assistance would also be available to attend externally provided training courses such as:
*Understanding the effects of trauma on children,
*Parenting programs,
*Financial management,
*Time management,
*Conflict management,
*Study skills,
*Work readiness.

As young kinship carers are a ‘hidden group’, vigorous publicity would be needed to advertise the availability of the pilot support service. The pilot project would run initially for 3-5 years. It would be externally evaluated in the final year with a view to advocacy for a permanent young kinship carer support service if effective.