Welfare Reform Must Include Refugee Employment - RCOA
15 August 2014 at 1:33 pm
The Federal Government’s welfare system reforms must pay more attention to addressing barriers to employment faced by refugees and humanitarian entrants, says the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA).
In its submission to the Department of Social Services Review of Australia’s Welfare System, RCOA said it was concerned that an interim review produced by the Reference Group gave very little consideration to the challenges faced by people from refugee backgrounds.
RCOA Chief Executive Officer Paul Power said the ability of humanitarian entrants to gain stable, adequately-remunerated employment played a critical role in successful settlement.
“However, refugees and asylum seekers face significant barriers in securing work, particularly during the early years of settlement,” Power said.
“Having been forced to flee their homelands, often with little warning, refugees typically leave behind most of what they own and arrive in Australia with few if any financial resources.
“Significant barriers to employment include limited English proficiency, lack of Australian work experience, poor access to transport and affordable housing, lack of qualification recognition and discrimination.
“Refugees and humanitarian entrants are often highly motivated to work, and in our consultations with refugee communities, people regularly speak of their frustration and disappointment at not being able to gain access to the job market to fully utilise their skills.
“Given these barriers, income support plays a key part in helping humanitarian entrants meet basic living costs and allow the space they need to develop skills, build support networks and establish the security and stability that is essential to successful settlement.”
RCOA said its submission identified strategies which had proven to be effective in supporting refugee and humanitarian entrants to overcome barriers to employment and on the path to self-sufficiency.
These included specialist employment services, working with employers who value workplace diversity, tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of former refugees and involving former refugees in the development and implementation of programs to overcome barriers to employment.
Power said the Reference Group must consider a broader range of measures that go beyond individual capacity-building and address the systemic issues driving barriers to employment for refugees and humanitarian entrants.
RCOA’s submission also recommended a review of the unique circumstances of asylum seekers and temporary humanitarian visa holders living in the community in financial hardship on 89 per cent of the Centrelink Special Benefit rate.
“This financial hardship is compounded by the fact that most asylum seekers living in the community are not currently permitted to work and even those who are have limited access to employment support services,” Power said.
Power said RCOA’s submission also addressed the impact of limiting income support for young refugees and humanitarian entrants who comprised about one-third of people granted humanitarian visas between 2009-10 and 2013-14.
“Given their younger age profile, refugee and humanitarian entrants are likely to be disproportionately affected by measures which limit the level of income support available to people below a certain age,” he said.
“Of particular concern is the situation of unaccompanied minors aged under 18 years. While these young people initially receive more intensive support than adult refugee and humanitarian entrants, they are expected to quickly transition to independence as soon as they turn 18, despite the fact they have no family in Australia, lack strong support and cannot access settlement services.”
To view RCOA’s submission, click here.