Support for people seeking asylum has been provided in recent years through the SRSS program. This program includes a basic living allowance which is provided to people while their claim for protection is being assessed. The payment is typically 89 percent of the Newstart Allowance ($243 a week for a single person without children). The SRSS program also provides casework support and access to torture and trauma counselling.
As at 28 February 2018, 13,299 people were receiving support via the SRSS program.
While the SRSS payment is made through the Department of Human Services, it is the Department of Home Affairs that funds and decides who is eligible under the directive of the Minister. The rules of eligibility are unclear. The Department of Human Services website only states that:
“The Department of Home Affairs will decide if you can get this payment.”
Unlike payments in our social security system where there are clear and transparent eligibility criteria, SRSS criteria can be changed at the discretion of the Minister and do not require Cabinet approval or legislative change. Consequently, it is difficult for those who receive the payment and those who give them assistance to understand what is happening when changes are made.