High Cost of Asylum Seeker Support Cuts Revealed
1 November 2018 at 4:31 pm
Federal government cuts to asylum seeker support payments will cost states up to $120 million a year as thousands of people are pushed into homelessness, new research warns.
A report led by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) predicted substantial cuts to the Status Resolution Support Service program (SRSS) for asylum seekers will burden state governments with significant extra costs in health, corrections, and homelessness services.
An RCOA survey of asylum seeker support organisations found almost four in five (79 per cent) people on the payment were likely to face homelessness if they were no longer eligible for SRSS – which provides financial support of approximately $250 per week.
A cost-analysis detailed in the report found these cuts would cost state governments between $80 and $120 million a year.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) director of humanitarian services Sherrine Clark, said these cuts were also putting a strain on the community sector, with the ASRC helping over 100 additional asylum seekers because of the cuts.
“We will see families made homeless, destitute and forced to live on the street unless we see a reversal of this punitive policy,” Clark said.
“The scale of unmet need is distressing… and the broader community services supporting people seeking asylum are now at capacity due to [SRSS] cuts. Basic decency needs to be brought back to our community.”
More than 1,000 people have exited the SRSS since August, after the Department of Home Affairs drastically changed eligibility requirements so only those meeting a high threshold of vulnerability were still eligible for support – regardless of whether they have a job.
In February this year, 13,299 people were receiving SRSS support, but around 8,000 people are expected to be forced off the program as further cuts are rolled out into 2019.
Lead author of the report, John van Kooy, said these changes to SRSS would put huge pressure on state governments and community organisations to support already highly vulnerable asylum seekers.
“Worryingly, many of these service providers simply do not have the capacity to provide the help that’s needed,” van Kooy said.
RCOA CEO Paul Power called on the federal government to reverse the cuts so people seeking asylum in Australia could access basic support while awaiting their immigration status.
“The government needs to keep people seeking asylum out of poverty, destitution and homelessness rather than pushing them further into it. It is crucial that a more just and humane policy is implemented in Australia now,” Power said.