Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Campaign against the cuts to the Asylum Seeker's support program (SRSS)

Last night Dulce Munoz Garcia, the National Convenor of  Mums4Refugees came and spoke in support of in support of the Inner West Council joining THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT MAYORAL TASKFORCE FOR PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM TO ADVOCATE AGAINST THE SRSS CUTS.

Mums4Refugees first contacted me last July to enlist Inner West Council's support for advocay against the cuts to the SRSS. This lead to the unanimous resolution of Notice of Motion: Advocacy against the cuts to income support for people seeking asylum living in the community

Since that time, the ALP has taken a "new position supporting people seeking asylum in the community during the election period and, if elected, into government" Source: http://backyourneighbour.com.au/about/

Since September 2017 when the changes to the SRSS Program began, the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown has seen an increase of 1242 people seeking assistance, the average time they have been in Australia is 2.4 years. The centre is currently providing support to 3341 people, who are working through the resolution of their protection visas. The centre has found itself providing food, toiletries, councelling and support services in conjunction with STARTTS as well as legal support. Mums4Refugees play a big part in good responses to food and toiletry drives.

My NOM as follows was resolved.That Council:
  1. Endorses the Joint Statement against changes to the Status Resolution Support Service as formulated by Councils that attended the Mayoral Roundtable held in  Dandenong, Victoria on 31 July 2018 shown at Appendix 2;
  2. Joins the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce Supporting People Seeking Asylum as a General Member
  3. Endorses the Back Your Neighbour Campaign run by the Taskforce.
  4. Nominates one or more Councillors as the Inner West Council contact(s) to the taskforce

Background

Changes by the Federal Government to the SRSS (Status Resolution Support Services) program are concerning many Councils as it will cut all income and case management support of many people seeking asylum and dramatically increase the demand for material aid resources at the local municipality level.

This action will likely leave many people destitute and requests for places to live, money for clothes, food and medicine, will only escalate and there will likely be an impact on social cohesion. Within Victoria alone, the number at risk from these changes is 5,863.

People seeking asylum were already accessing emergency assistance in increasing numbers from support agencies and other charities such as the Asylum Seeker’s Centre in Newtown. Many of these organisations receive no government funding. Cuts to the SRSS program increase the barriers facing asylum seekers in settling into local communities.
In July, 2018 a Mayoral Roundtable was held of interested in Victorian Councils concerned about the issue. What was agreed was a joint statement see Appendix. Also there was agreement to form an ongoing taskforce to advocate on the issue. This taskforce, the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce for People Seeking Asylum expanded in October 2018 to become national and already has 20 member Councils including four from NSW.
Following the SRSS Mayoral Roundtable held in Dandenong on Tuesday 31 July to discuss joint advocacy against these changes as well as practical responses a group of Victorian Councils has now formed the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce Supporting People Seeking Asylum. The Taskforce is chaired by the City of Greater Dandenong Mayor, Cr Roz Blades AM.
On the 3rd December, the Taskforce launched the “Back Your Neighbour” campaign against the cuts. Social Change Projects is managing the Campaign on behalf of the Taskforce and has a strong record in this area, responsible in Victoria for managing the Make Rent Fair campaign and nationally and will be running a strong media and stakeholder campaign from now until at least the Federal election.
Previous Inner West Council Resolution on the SRSS Cuts
At the 24 July 2018 Council Meeting Inner West Council Resolved that:
1. Council writes to the Prime Minister and to the Federal Minister of Home Affairs asking the Federal Government to reverse cuts to the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program and highlighting the unfair and devastating impact of these cuts on people seeking asylum and the Inner West community’s disagreement with these cuts;

2. Council writes to the Premier of New South Wales asking her to make representation to both the Prime Minister and the Federal Minister of Home Affairs to highlight the devastating impact of these cuts on the NSW community and to reverse the cuts;

3. Members of Parliaments for the seats of Balmain, Heffron, Newtown, Strathfield, Summer Hill and Grayndler; New South Wales Senators; and Members of the NSW Legislative Council are informed of Council’s position;

4. Other NSW Councils are contacted seeking their support for joint advocacy on this issue;

5. Council publicises practical way members of the Inner West Community can work with the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown to support people seeking asylum (https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/live/community-well-being/migrant-support-services)
6. Council considers practical ways of supporting people seeking asylum; and

7. Council works with the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown to organise a civic leaders meetings with community leaders in the Inner West. The meeting will discuss ways the community can collectively address the challenges lying ahead for people seeking asylum.
    1. APPENDIX 1 Taskforce purpose

Coordination of joint state-wide advocacy by Councils and sharing resources and practical responses by communities to the issues caused by the SRSS cuts. 
Councils involved as Executive Members (Executive Members meet monthly and act as a steering group for the Taskforce.): Brimbank City Council, City of Darebin, City of Greater Dandenong, City of Hume, City of Monash, Hobsons Bay City Council, Moreland City Council, Yarra City Council
Councils involved as General Members (General Members get consulted on Taskforce direction, take an active role in Taskforce activities and contribute resources to the Taskforce.):Banyule City Council, Cardinia Shire Council, City of Ballarat, City of Port Phillip, City of Wagga Wagga (NSW), City of Whittlesea, Hawkesbury City Council (NSW), Leeton Shire Council (NSW), Maribynong City Council, Moonee Valley City Council and Wyndham City Council.
    1. Back Your Neighbour Campaign

The Back Your Neighbour Campaign, which was launched on 3 December 2018, has seen 22 Councils band together to ensure people who have fled persecution do not end up suffering homelessness or destitution as a result of the Federal Government cuts. This campaign symbolises a unified approach with Councils from NSW and Victoria involved together with community ambassadors and advocates to have financial and support services reinstated for asylum seekers.
The objectives of the Back Your Neighbour campaign are to:
  • Change (reverse or mitigate) the Federal Government’s current policy on SRSS support for people seeking asylum in the community
  • Increase humanitarian support from the Victorian Government
  • Support the Federal Opposition to maintain its new position supporting people seeking asylum in the community during the election period and, if elected, into government
For more information visit backyourneighbour.com.au or facebook.com/backyourneighbour to join the campaign.
If your Council are interested in joining the Taskforce, or just want further information please contact Peter Johnstone, Coordinator, Community Development, City of Greater Dandenong at peter.johnstone@cgd.vic.gov.au.
Source: http://www.greaterdandenong.com/document/32480/local-government-mayoral-taskforce-supporting-people-seeking-asylum
    1. APPENDIX 2 Joint Statement against changes to the Status Resolution Support Services for People Seeking Asylum

We the undersigned representatives of local governments in Victoria issue the following statement:
We want the Australian Government to provide adequate resources to meet the needs of people seeking asylum who live in the community. Over 4,000 children nationally could be affected by the changes and we call upon the Australia Government to adhere to its national and international obligations in accordance with the Charter of Human Rights.
We strongly believe more effective collaboration and coordination is essential between Commonwealth, State and Local Governments and we seek the following commitments from the Australian Government:
Commitment One: We want the Australian Government to reverse the recent assessment changes to the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program and provide adequate income and case management support for people seeking asylum while they seek sustainable employment.
Commitment Two: We strongly call on the Australian Government to provide funding to enable accurate initial job readiness assessment by trained employment consultants who understand the unique and significant barriers that people seeking asylum face.
Commitment Three: We want the Australian Government to provide additional funding to enable asylum seekers to be registered as Stream B and C job seekers within the jobactive network of agencies to facilitate ongoing job readiness assessment and skilled employment consultant support.
Commitment Four: The Australian Government needs to improve local area coordination in cooperation with LGA’s. We call on the Australian Government to work with local municipalities in exploring the feasibility of local coordination points to better respond to local area need.
  • Commitment Five: We strongly call on the Australian Government to provide greater resourcing to reinforce the capacity of community service and voluntary organisations to assist people seeking asylum to live safely in local communities and receive emergency relief and material aid support until such time as they receive a substantive visa or are deported. Accountability Additional resourcing will bring with it an obligation to ensure that Local Government allocates resources appropriately and resource areas of identified need. We commit to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. We commit to evaluate the application of resources in people seeking asylum support programs by measuring service delivery against agreed objectives and targets. The evaluation process will include annual program reports and Inter-Governmental consultations to review program effectiveness and refine objectives and activities.

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