P.E.I. legislature passes motion calling for more support for grandparents

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A motion calling on the government to develop an assistance program for grandparents raising grandchildren passed in the provincial legislature Tuesday evening.

The motion was put forward by PC MLA James Aylward, and was supported unanimously.

Similar motion in the past

This isn't the first time the topic has been discussed in the legislature. In the fall of 2015, a similar motion was put forward by Liberal MLA Tina Mundy, who was a backbencher at the time, and is now now minister of family and human services.

Aylward said he put forward this second motion because even though the previous one was passed, concrete action was not taken.

"I think we're keeping focus on government on this. We're ensuring that they don't think that we've forgotten about this in any way, shape or form," said Aylward.

Struggles grandparents face

A group of grandparents were in the gallery of the legislature Tuesday evening while the motion was being debated. One of the people there was Don Avery, who is raising his great-granddaughter.

Avery recently started a support group for grandparents in Charlottetown. He said while it is rewarding to raise his great-granddaughter, it is also very challenging. He said in some cases grandparents can face obstacles that biological parents don't have to deal with. For example, he said, simple things like doctor appointments can be challenging. 

"You don't have the right to do so. You have to get the biological parent's say, but if the biological parent is suffering from whatever, mental health, addictions … what do you do?" said Avery.

"We're not asking for the world here, we're just asking for, just, to be able to do those things without all of the restrictions that are put in front of you that a biological parent wouldn't have."

'There's constantly demands'

Aylward said he has heard many similar stories, and he wants to make it easier for grandparents to care for grandchildren if the child's parents aren't able to.

"We need some amendments around legislation so that grandparents can be seen as the legal guardian and step in," said Aylward.

Aylward also said he wants to see financial supports for grandparents who need it.

"There's constantly demands, and if you're living on a fixed income, as a senior, I honestly don't know how they're doing it," said Aylward.

Commitment to pilot project

During the sitting of the legislature Tuesday evening, Minister Mundy said her department is committed to setting up a pilot project which would provide financial support for grandparents who act as caregivers, by the end of her mandate.

Aylward said the end of her mandate, which would be the fall of 2019, is not soon enough. He said he was glad to hear of her commitment to the project, but would like to see it happen "immediately, and not two years down the road."


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