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.”
Community Organisation Signatories
- Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)
- Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
- Academics for Refugees
- Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees
- Anglicare Sydney
- Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement Inc.
- Asylum Circle
- Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)
- Asylum Seekers Centre Inc.
- Australian Association of Social Workers
- Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
- Australian Education Union (AEU)
- Australian Lawyers Alliance
- Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
- Australian National Committee on Refugee Women
- Australian Refugee Action Network
- Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru
- Ballarat Community Health
- Ballina Region for Refugees Inc.
- Balmain For Refugees
- Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
- Cabrini Outreach
- Canberra Refuggee Support
- CARAD – Centre For Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees
- Careers Kitchen
- Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA)
- Central Victorian Refugee Support Network
- Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
- Centrecare Inc.
- Children and Young People with Disability Australia
- Combined Refugee Action Group (Geelong)
- Communify Qld
- Community Housing Industry Association
- Community Mental Health Australia
- CORE Community Services
- Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN)
- Diversity Focus
- Edmund Rice Centre
- Free the Children Nauru
- Gabba Ward, Brisbane City Council
- Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children Newcastle
- Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children NSW
- Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy
- Immigration Advice & Rights Centre (IARC)
- Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia
- Jesuit Social Services
- Kingston East Neighbourhood Group
- Loreto Sisters Australia South East Asia
- Macarthur Diversity services Initiative
- Melbourne Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office
- Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW
- National Association of Community Legal Centres
- National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)
- National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
- NCOSS – NSW Council of Social Service
- NSW Council for Civil Liberties
- Pax Christi Australia Queensland
- Pax Christi Victoria, (International Christian Peace Movement)
- People Just Like Us
- Public Health Association of Australia
- Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees
- Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
- Refugee Action Coalition
- Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla
- Refugee Action Collective Victoria
- Refugee Advocacy Network
- Refugee and Immigration Legal Service
- Refugee Legal
- Refugee Rights Action Network WA
- Riverview Community Services
- Rural Australians for Refugees
- Rural Australians for Refugees: South-Eastern Tasmania
- SA Council of Social Service
- Save the Children
- South Gippsland Rural Australians fro Refugees (SGRAR)
- St Francis Social Services (House of Welcome)
- St Vincent de Paul Society National Council
- Tasmania Quakers Peace and Justice Committee
- Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support network
- Tasmanian Refugee Rights Action Group
- Tassie Nannas
- Teachers For Refugees
- The Humanitarian Group
- The Salvation Army
- The Tasmania Opportunity
- UNICEF Australia
- Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod
- Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
- Uniting Lentara
- Wesley Asylum Seeker Welcome Place
- Western Austrlian Council of Socail Service
- Whittlesea Community Connections