An alliance of more than 30 peak bodies and welfare groups has called on the Senate to reject legislation that would force new migrants to wait four years to access some social security payments. Source: Pro Bono News.
Legislation to lengthen the waiting period from two to three years was included in a bill earlier this year. However last month’s Federal Budget revealed that the waiting period would be extended to four years.
An alliance led by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the St Vincent de Paul Society, has warned the bill will impose severe hardship on tens of thousands of people.
FECCA chairperson, Mary Patetsos, said extending the waiting period would not only affect social security payments, but also carer allowances, family tax benefit and widow allowances.
“These changes will hit the most vulnerable of migrants,” she said.
“Permanent migrants should enjoy the same benefits as all other Australian residents, especially at the time when they need a little help to settle into their new home.
“Regardless of the committee’s report, we call on the Senate to oppose any increase to waiting periods, whether to three years or four years.”
Those most at risk to an extended waiting period include: single parents and children, women at risk of family violence, young migrants and newly-graduated students, and those who unexpectedly become a carer.
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO John Falzon, said the changes were “unjust, unnecessary and divisive”.
“They undermine the needs-based focus of our social safety net and will create an underclass of residents cut off from the basic rights and supports afforded to other members of the community,” Dr Falzon said.
“Without access to a safety net, the most vulnerable new residents will be forced to rely on charities and risk being trapped in a cycle of poverty and hardship.”
The bill is currently before a Senate committee which will report tomorrow.
Welfare Advocates Push Back Against ‘Divisive’ Migrants Bill (Pro Bono News)