Cuts to support system leave people seeking asylum in destitution

Joint media release with Refugee Council of Australia

Monday 26 March, 2018

Thousands of people seeking protection while living in the Australian community are at risk of destitution and homelessness due to the latest government move to completely cut income support for people who need it the most.

The government is planning to make cuts to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) program that provides a basic living allowance (typically 89% of Newstart allowance, equating to just $247 per week), casework support, assistance in finding housing, and access to torture and trauma counselling. People waiting for a decision about their claim for protection receive these supports.

An alliance of close to 100 civil society organisations, including the Refugee Council of Australia and Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the government to urgently reverse their position to cut income support for people seeking asylum from 1 April 2018.

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia says the government has already heavily cut income and other supports to people who are rebuilding their lives in Australia.

“People who would be affected include fathers, mothers, young people and children who are part of our schools, our workplaces, and our communities,” said Mr Power.

“Many still have years before a decision will be known on their status. What are they to do in the meantime without any income?

“The government needs to take a step back and remember for a second that we are talking about people – people who have escaped war and risked death by traveling the long treacherous journey to Australia via long stays in places where they were given no status or protection and often ended up in detention centres. They are men, women and children who are traumatised and stateless. Many remain fearful of returning to their countries and cling to hope in Australia.

“It is absolutely clear people who have already faced terrible trauma in their lives will, in Australia, be forced into homelessness if they don’t have any income support.

“These cuts are terribly short-sighted. This is not a budget saving measure, it is a budget shirking.”

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says parents seeking protection are already skipping meals to pay for their children’s medication and food.

“It is appalling the government is wanting to cut people off income support entirely. What are people meant to do with no income at all? How can they feed and get their children to school?” says Dr Goldie.

“People will become homeless, their health will suffer and they will be unable to feed themselves. As a country, do we think it is acceptable that children go without meals, education, and a roof over their head?

“$247 per week is so little to live on. It is outrageous the government is even considering cutting this payment entirely.

“People living in Australia, including people seeking asylum, have the right to access Australia’s social safety net if they need it. That’s why it’s there. For when people need it.”

Mr Power says the cuts will put a huge amount of pressure on local communities, local councils, state and territory governments, and charities.

“After four years of social security policy changes cutting the incomes of people already vulnerable, community organisations, church groups and individuals trying to help people facing destitution are already exhausted and overstretched.

“People and families living without any income support will mean these organisations and individuals will be in overdrive trying to avoid people and families falling into destitution.

“Various schemes assisting people while they wait for a decision on their status determination have existed with bipartisan support for years.

“We call on the federal government to retain the SRSS scheme for all people seeking protection in Australia.”

Media enquiries, Samuel Dariol, RCOA, 0488 035 535 or [email protected]

ACOSS Media, 0419 626 155 or [email protected]

Community Organisation Signatories

  1. Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)
  2. Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
  3. Academics for Refugees
  4. Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees
  5. Anglicare Sydney
  6. Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement Inc.
  7. Asylum Circle
  8. Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)
  9. Asylum Seekers Centre Inc.
  10. Australian Association of Social Workers
  11. Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
  12. Australian Education Union (AEU)
  13. Australian Lawyers Alliance
  14. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
  15. Australian National Committee on Refugee Women
  16. Australian Refugee Action Network
  17. Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru
  18. Ballarat Community Health
  19. Ballina Region for Refugees Inc.
  20. Balmain For Refugees
  21. Baptcare
  22. Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
  23. Cabrini Outreach
  24. Canberra Refugee Support
  25. CARAD – Centre For Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees
  26. Careers Kitchen
  27. Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA)
  28. Central Victorian Refugee Support Network
  29. Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
  30. Centrecare Inc.
  31. Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  32. Combined Refugee Action Group (Geelong)
  33. Communify Qld
  34. Community Housing Industry Association
  35. Community Mental Health Australia
  36. CORE Community Services
  37. Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN)
  38. Diversity Focus
  39. Edmund Rice Centre
  40. Free the Children Nauru
  41. Gabba Ward, Brisbane City Council
  42. GetUp
  43. Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children Newcastle
  44. Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children NSW
  45. Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy
  46. Immigration Advice & Rights Centre (IARC)
  47. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia
  48. Jesuit Social Services
  49. Kingston East Neighbourhood Group
  50. Loreto Sisters Australia South East Asia
  51. Macarthur Diversity services Initiative
  52. Melbourne Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office
  53. Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW
  54. Mums4Refugees
  55. National Association of Community Legal Centres
  56. National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)
  57. National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  58. NCOSS – NSW Council of Social Service
  59. NSW Council for Civil Liberties
  60. Pax Christi Australia Queensland
  61. Pax Christi Victoria, (International Christian Peace Movement)
  62. People Just Like Us
  63. Public Health Association of Australia
  64. Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees
  65. Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
  66. Refugee Action Coalition
  67. Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla
  68. Refugee Action Collective Victoria
  69. Refugee Advocacy Network
  70. Refugee and Immigration Legal Service
  71. Refugee Legal
  72. Refugee Rights Action Network WA
  73. Riverview Community Services
  74. Rural Australians for Refugees
  75. Rural Australians for Refugees: South-Eastern Tasmania
  76. South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS)
  77. Save the Children
  78. South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees (SGRAR)
  79. St Francis Social Services (House of Welcome)
  80. St Vincent de Paul Society National Council
  81. Tasmania Quakers Peace and Justice Committee
  82. Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support network
  83. Tasmanian Refugee Rights Action Group
  84. Tassie Nannas
  85. Teachers For Refugees
  86. The Humanitarian Group
  87. The Salvation Army
  88. The Tasmania Opportunity
  89. UNICEF Australia
  90. Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod
  91. Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
  92. Uniting Lentara
  93. Wesley Asylum Seeker Welcome Place
  94. WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS)
  95. Whittlesea Community Connections
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