According to the Department of Home Affairs, 13,299 people were on SRSS as at 27 February 2018. In an answer to questions on notice in Senate estimates, the Department provided the following statistics:
By state or territory
|Individuals in the SRSS Programme by State/Territory as at 27 February 2018|
By band (level of support within SRSS)
|Band||Total (as at 27 February 2018)|
Source: Answer to question on notice no. 99, AE18/104, Senate Additional Estimates, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
What do we know about the changes?
Some changes have already happened. People studying full-time and people who have sent money home to family and friends have already started losing their SRSS support.
The Department has indicated to stakeholders that people will be reassessed for eligibility in the next few months. If they are found to be ‘job-ready’, then they may lose support. This may happen even if the people are responsible for raising young children.
There is a lot we do not know yet about the proposed changes. We do not know exactly when they will start, although we expect the changes to start very soon. We do not have much information about the details of the policy, which will be very important.
What we do know is that, if the changes do happen, then thousands of highly vulnerable people will lose their income and their case worker. What we do know is that, if this happens, many of them will not be able to house, clothe or feed themselves. We also know that the charities that support people seeking asylum are already exhausted and overwhelmed.
For people seeking asylum in the community, the payments are 89% of Newstart or Youth Allowance. Families may also get a Family Tax Benefit, and those in rented housing may get rental assistance (at 89% of the normal rate). The amount varies depending on the circumstances of the individual.
These tables show what 89% of the current Newstart payment and 89% of the current rental assistance payment looks like. The rates are per fortnight.
Newstart and SRSS payments
|Recipient Status||Children||Age||Per fortnight||SRSS payment rate|
|Single||no children||22 or over||545.8||485.762|
|Single||no children||60 or over after 9 months||590.4||525.456|
|Single principal carer with activity test exemption EITHER: because of caring for large family or foster children, OR who is a home or distance educator of child/ren in their care.||with children||-||762.4||678.536|
|Partnered - illness separated couple (1.1.I.04), respite care couple (1.1.R.240), or partner in gaol (1.1.P.85)||590.4||525.456|
Rent assistance payments
|Recipient Status||Rent Threshold||Minimum Rent for Maximum RA||Maximum Rate (per fortnight)||Maximum SRSS rates per fortnight|
|Single, no children||120.2||299.93||134.8||119.972|
|Single, no children, sharer||120.2||240.02||89.87||79.9843|
|Partnered, no children (combined rate)||194.6||363.93||127||113.03|
|Member of a couple, no children - illness separated couple (1.1.I.04), respite care couple (1.1.R.240), or partner imprisoned (1.1.P.85)||120.2||299.93||134.8||119.972|
|Member of a couple temporarily separated, no children||120.2||289.53||127||113.03|
Many people who came by boat have suffered through several policy changes which has delayed processing of their claims.
These changes have meant that people’s claims have been barred or suspended, and procedures for determining refugee status, including review rights, have changed.
In December 2014, the government passed legislation that changed the procedure for determining refugee status once again for people arriving by boat after 13 August 2012. These people were to be ‘fast tracked’ under a new procedure with no real independent merits review and a new definition of refugee.
The government initially said this process would be complete by December 2017. Processing did not really begin until mid-2015. At the start, people had to be ‘invited’ to apply in groups, but this process shifted and everyone was able to apply. However, the government had ended funding for legal providers to help these people, with the exception of a very small group of especially vulnerable people.
Because most people do not speak enough English to navigate the complex system, and most people did not have enough money to pay for a migration agent, people found it very hard to get any help to apply. Then, in April 2017, the government announced that people had to apply by 1 October 2017 or they would not be able to get protection. This meant legal services were overwhelmed by desperate people.
When people first came, they were not allowed to work or study. Many were in detention or in community detention, which means they had to live in particular places without the right to work.
People were only granted work rights slowly through 2015. However, people had not been given help to learn English or to settle into Australia, and were living on the very small SRSS income payments. Many suffer significant health problems caused by their persecution overseas and their experiences in Australia, including in detention.
Their bridging visas were often not renewed or too short for employers. Most had no local networks or local experience. For many employers, this was all too hard:
My company employs people on bridging visas who have work rights and there was an instance where this guy’s visa expired, he was a Tamil guy and they had promised him to renew the visa but he had nothing in writing. But because I am a Tamil person and I want him to still work here in the company I was on the phone for about two and a half hours to immigration to try and find information so I can tell my company and the HR people yes he can still work. So nobody else is going to do that, a normal person is not going to do that.
– Employer at our annual consultations in 2017
For people who came by boat, the Department publishes statistics about where they are living monthly, which we are updating here.
As at 31 January 2018, over 6,000 live in NSW and Victoria. Nearly a thousand live in Queensland and South Australia.