The Department has heightened the vulnerability threshold and are unveiling a new, reduced support model with a number of restrictive eligibility criteria.
The precise nature of the new criteria has been unclear. Some changes have already been applied, while others are yet to be rolled out. People studying full-time and those who have sent money home to family and friends have already started losing their SRSS support. Exclusions have also applied to new applicants and asylum seekers who were on tourist, student or work visa before applying for refugee protection, and whose initial visa has not yet expired.
Initial indications from the Department suggested that people would be exited from the program if they were deemed "job ready". The most recent information suggests that job readiness will not be considered when assessing eligibility. Instead, to qualify for the payment asylum seekers will need to demonstrate they meet a high threshold of vulnerability, including:
- Physical health barriers that are ongoing, permanent disability, or cognitive impairment;
- Mental health barriers, with a current diagnosis and treatment plan in place;
- Single parents with pre-school aged children (children under six), pregnant women with complications, a primary carer for someone with a significant vulnerability, people aged 70 and over;
- A major crisis for the client (family violence, house fire, flood, etc).
Very few people will fit the new restrictive criteria. Under the revised rules, the Government has stated it intends to reduce the number of people receiving assistance to fewer than 5,000. This means around 8,000 currently on the program could lose access to basic income assistance, and thousands more will be unable to access any support if they need it at some point in the future.
The new rules are being rolled out progressively, initially targeting single adult men and women with work rights. In late June 2018, the first group of people assessed under the new draconian criteria (around 1,500) were notified they would be exited from the program. Income support started being cut off from this group in late July; assess to all other SRSS support (e.g. torture and trauma counselling) was withdrawn in August.
Over the coming months, the new criteria will be progressively rolled out to other groups, including families with children. The Department has not announced when the next tranches of asylum seekers will be cut off from SRSS payments and support.