Settlement Services International (SSI) welcomes the passage of vital JobKeeper legislation that will help six million workers and their families to put food on the table, pay bills and self-isolate safely.
The historic scheme will support the health and welfare of Australians trying to manage COVID-19 while helping businesses stay standing to serve the community and employ people.
However, SSI believes that everyone in our community should be able to access real support during a public health emergency and is extremely disappointed that visa workers, many casual workers, people seeking asylum and undocumented workers are excluded.
Two million people now facing destitution will turn to community centres, charities, mosques and churches, already overwhelmed by demand for their welfare services.
The impact on already struggling skill shortage areas like aged care, disability care and individual support will also be significant. Those roles, classed as essential services during this crisis, are not typically taken up by residents and citizens.
If temporary visa holders, excluded from Jobseeker and largely excluded from the social security system, are left in situations where they are impoverished, homeless and unable to access affordable health care, there will be serious consequences for public health across Australia.
SSI is grateful to the Government for important steps taken to keep people connected to their workplaces and to keep communities going at a time of crisis. The JobKeeper scheme will make a huge difference to people who would otherwise have lost connection to their place of employment.
SSI works with people from all backgrounds, including migrants, refugees and other newcomers to Australia.
We know how integral employment is in the settlement journey for newly arrived Australians, migrants and other vulnerable people in our community. It provides a valuable pathway to achieving independence and economic security.
But we have already seen in our JobActive and Refugee Employment Support Program people who are finding the lack of connection to employment extremely isolating, making their longer term re-integration more challenging.
That is why SSI applauds those continuing to push for expanded eligibility for JobKeeper payments to include everyone who had a job, regardless of visa status.
We hope to work with the Government to see how funded settlement services can assist with people who will not have access to JobKeeper.
And we urge the Federal Government to:
- provide a safety net for those temporary visa holders who cannot return to their country of origin
- allow access to Medicare to all people in Australia affected by COVID-19 who need healthcare as a matter of public health
- provide a safety net for refugees and people seeking asylum on bridging visas who do not have access to SRSS
Access to a welfare safety net is now more vital than ever. It would bring food security, help maintain social distancing and therefore reduce the public health risk.
Without a safety net, the many migrants who contribute to our society will be trapped in Australia and living in poverty.
It will also make it harder for Australia to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
SSI believes in the social and economic dividend of our diversity. We believe that should include everyone. No-one should be left behind.