The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called for the Federal Government to extend the supplementary payments under its new Coronavirus package and access to Medicare to all people in Australia in need, including people seeking asylum.
RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power commended the Government on its announcement yesterday that existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit would receive a $550 supplement each fortnight for six months.
“This supplementary payment is an excellent initiative. It puts money into the hands of people who need funds for essential items, knowing that their spending will help to provide much-needed economic stimulus,” Mr Power said. “This thinking should be extended to everyone in the country who is in need, particularly those who have no access to any form of safety net or to Medicare because of their visa status.
“With the international movement of people grinding to a halt, we need to take care of everyone now in Australia, knowing that the health of all of us is directly connected to how we treat the most vulnerable. We cannot collectively afford to have people destitute, homeless and with no access to affordable medical help. The risk to public health is too great.
“For some years, we at the Refugee Council have been deeply concerned about the situation of thousands of people on Bridging Visas who have no access to any form of financial support even when they have no other income.
“Over the past two years, the Federal Government has cut thousands of people seeking asylum off from access to financial assistance under the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program because the government has deemed them ‘work-ready’. While strongly supporting the idea that people should be encouraged to support themselves wherever possible, we have argued without success that this should not be done in a way which leaves people without any income at all.
“As the impacts of these cuts to the SRSS program have grown, crisis services provided by charities and State Governments have reported that they have been unable to cope with the demand for support from Bridging Visa holders who are destitute. Frontline staff of these agencies face the daily stress of having insufficient resources to meet the needs of children and adults being forced into homelessness.
“Addressing this destitution is now more urgent than ever. In commending the Government on the Coronavirus package announced yesterday, we are calling on our political leaders to extend financial support and access to Medicare to all people in Australia who need it, including people on Bridging Visas. The Refugee Council and its member organisations are ready to work with the Government to help develop strategies to extend this support to people who most need it.”
RCOA is collating resources to assist people seeking asylum and refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see here for more information.
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