20 july 2018
The Salvation Army’s national commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, asking him to reverse the policy decision to cease financial support of those people seeking asylum who are living in Australia.
The Salvation Army understands that if the policy decision of the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Peter Dutton, is not reversed, then more than half of the 12,000 asylum seekers affected will lose Status Recognition Support Service (SRSS) funding that allows them to pay rent, purchase food, medicine and clothing, cook their meals and heat their homes. The impact of the poverty induced by the removal of this financial support could also add to the numbers of homeless people struggling to survive in Australia.
The Salvation Army’s Manager of Government Relations Major Brad Halse has met with Prime Minister Turnbull and his advisors, and with Minister Dutton, to present The Salvation Army’s concerns at the treatment of this vulnerable group of people.
The Salvation Army’s Manager of Government Relations Major Brad Halse
The Salvation Army has also joined the Refugee Council of Australia, the ACRT, ACOSS (the Australian Council of Social Services) and other stakeholders in a press conference in Canberra to oppose the policy change. The Salvation Army, as a member of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT), endorses that group’s statement that ‘no person lawfully residing in Australia should be forced in to destitution through the removal of access to financial and housing supports’.
‘The Salvation Army believes that people who are refugees or seeking asylum should be offered adequate assistance to live, whether while waiting for their visa status to be resolved or in becoming full contributing members of Australian society,’ wrote Commissioner Tidd.
‘The proposed change to the SRSS, rather than offering basic assistance, increases difficulty and demonstrates a lack of compassion and empathy for people who have already experienced extreme hardship and loss, and who are facing a very uncertain future…
‘For people already struggling to afford basic necessities, the daily cost of living and those associated with actively seeking work will simply be impossible to meet. This will also impact on services such as those provided by The Salvation Army, which will require further resources to meet the increased demand.’
‘We don’t understand why this small cohort of people is chosen for this dramatic change,’ Major Halse told e-connect. ‘We do walk a fine line between advocacy and service provision. It is part of our history, and we want to stay engaged with governments at all levels.’
‘Our message to government is that we will never turn people away who need assistance – and these are people who need considerable assistance, for a considerable time,’ he added. ‘We have no extra resources to meet that need; all of our financial services are committed. Our hope would be that this policy would be met with government funds.
‘There is a real tension between the government’s competing priorities, such as balancing budgets, and this particular focus on people who are seeking asylum,’ Major Halse said. ‘These are difficult decisions, and we do not and will not agree with all decisions a government makes; but we will disagree respectfully.’
Conversations about this vulnerable cohort of people’s physical and mental health continue.
The Salvation Army has distributed the ACRT’s campaign information across all of its churches and social program networks throughout Australia.
Click here for the resources at ACRT.com.au