Limited access to income support
Unlike permanent residents, refugees on TPVs and SHEVs who require income support only receive payments through Special Benefit, rather than through other income support programs such as the Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance or Austudy. Recipients of Special Benefit who wish to pursue tertiary study can only continue to receive income support if they are undertaking a vocational course that is likely to enhance their employment prospects and which can be completed in 12 months or less. As such, refugees on TPVs or SHEVs undertaking courses which take more than 12 months to complete will not be able to receive income support during this time.
While other Australians are entitled to receive Austudy or Youth Allowance while studying, this is not available for TPV and SHEV holders. This is likely to seriously limit tertiary education opportunities for these visa holders.
This policy also impacts on people being able to accept a scholarship from a university. A number of universities have expressed a desire to provide scholarships to refugees on TPVs and SHEVs. However, those who are on Special Benefits payments will likely lose their income support if they enrol in a university course greater than 12 months. This issue was highlighted by a university in NSW:
There are a number of people at [our university] who have been trying to look at ways of obtaining fee waivers for students who are currently classified as international students. We have got a sense that there are a number of universities who are interested in that but are concerned what knock-on effect that has for the students, in terms of accessing income support.
As such, even if a person receives a scholarship, the policy regarding Special Benefits will likely restrict them from accepting the scholarship.
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government allow TPV and SHEV holders to receive income support under standard programs, to ensure that they are not excluded from higher education.