Zoe Paleologos and Jo-Ann Elvery in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
The Federal Government is rolling out a new policy on income support for asylum seekers that cuts off income support if they are studying full time. Refugees learning English to get work are losing an income because “if they can study they can work”.
Anglicare say the recent changes to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) for people seeking asylum in Australia are causing distress and creating further hardship
The Federal Government’s SRSS program provides income support (about 89% of Newstart allowance – just over $450 p/fortnight for a single person), case management, and other supports for those seeking a protection visa who are in financial hardship. The current changes to eligibility include possibly ceasing all SRSS support to people seeking asylum who study full-time, including English.
“It’s a month since the changes were rolled out and we are starting to see the impact on the people we support,” says Zoe Paleologos, Anglicare Research and Advocacy Officer.
“These policies need to be reconsidered. There is an assumption that people seeking asylum in Australia can work if they can study full time. Income support has been cut on this assumption without considering that many cannot find appropriate jobs without recognised qualifications or a certain level of English proficiency.
“These changes are pushing an already vulnerable cohort into further hardship and limiting opportunities to build resilience and financial independence.”
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According to Anglicare it is not just the impact to income support that is causing distress and harm.
“Many have been accessing case workers to assist them with settlement, accessing the services they need and community support. Now access to non-financial assistance will be removed. These are policies that deter asylum seekers from calling Australia home,” explains Ms Paleologos.
“We urge the Government to withdraw these changes to SRSS. They are creating a situation of heightened vulnerability and an underclass of people who are pushed further into hardship and worsening mental health. They are punitive policies that are counterproductive if Australia wants to harness the skills and potential that these people have to offer.”