SRSS cuts leaving people homeless
23 April 2019 at 4:36 pm
A major asylum seeker support payment has been cut by 60 per cent over the past two years, putting thousands of people at risk of poverty, poor health and homelessness, a new report warns.
The federal government cut funding for the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) from $139.8 million in 2017/18 to $56.2 million in 2019/20.
This will reduce the number of people accessing the SRSS from 13,299 to 5,000, with 1,200 people already cut off.
ASRC’s latest report said without the SRSS – which provides recipients with fortnightly payments of less than $35 a day (89 per cent of Newstart) and casework support – vulnerable asylum seekers would lack the basic safety net to prevent them falling into poverty.
Under the new eligibility requirements, only families with children under six years old will still be considered “vulnerable”. Since February, the government has begun cutting support for families with older children.
ASRC founder Kon Karapanagiotidis said charities were dealing with “a crisis of homelessness and hunger” caused by the cuts.
“Entire families are presenting to the ASRC with complex, deteriorating mental and physical health while at risk of homelessness,” Karapanagiotidis said.
“People are forcibly dependent on charity rather than being able to contribute to building our multicultural country and economy, which they very much want and try hard to do.”
The report said ASRC had seen an increasing need for crisis accommodation, emergency food care packs, and sleeping bags for people sleeping rough.
In February and March 2019 alone, the charity took 179 and 183 new appointments respectively.
Housing was identified as the biggest risk for people being cut off support services, and the ASRC paid rent for 348 people through its Rent Assistance Program in 2018, compared to 96 people over the 2016 financial year.
Demand for the ASRC’s food services have also risen from 590 people a week at the start of 2018 to 750 people.
The report detailed the case of a woman in her late 50s on medication for mental and physical health conditions, who was on the SRSS while she learnt English to help her find a job.
“She was cut off SRSS by the department in October 2018 and lost access to her medication, she is unable to pay rent, is relying on emergency housing and emergency food and pharmaceutical packs… [she] faces imminent homelessness,” the report said.
This isn’t the first time charities have raised concerns about SRSS cuts.
Leaders from 10 national NGOs, along with a delegation of asylum seekers and community members, gathered at Parliament last June to urge the federal government to stop the cuts.
Research from November also warned the cuts would cost states up to $120 million a year as thousands of people were pushed into homelessness.
The ASRC is calling on the government to stop cutting families off the SRSS immediately and for the payment to be restored to all people seeking asylum within 100 days of the new government.
Labor’s shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann attacked the cuts last year, labelling them “arbitrary, unjustified and haphazard”.
But the government has constantly defended the cuts by arguing those who have the capacity to work are expected to support themselves.