PROVIDING ACCOMMODATION ASSISTANCE TO ASYLUM SEEKERS
Which asylum seekers need accommodation and support? Individuals or families may receive limited funding through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBC). Even if they do receive support, this will be limited to 89% of the Newstart allowance, an amount insufficient for a person’s or a family’s accommodation and living needs, without private means or outside help.
Individuals or families with work rights but who are unable to secure the hours of work needed to meet living and accommodation costs in the private rental market. Individuals or families whose income has ceased, eg because of government refusal to recognise their claims as refugees. In these cases, any work rights and financial support are usually withdrawn. Without our assistance some asylum seekers are not able to meet living and accommodation costs in the private rental market.
Options for supporting accommodation – It is recommended to already work with an Asylum seeker Shelter / housing service i.e. Arrupe Place ( JRS ) or House of Welcome.
Depending upon the resources available to each parish, accommodation support offered may be for short or longer terms, or for a defined period. The options for provision of support can include, sponsoring an individual or family in private rental, in full or part. Clarify with all the terms of the offer, including the timeframe, who will bear what costs, expectations and restrictions on use of the dwelling, and any other issues. Most initial accommodation will be supported through settlement services International.
Summary of Issues to consider in providing ongoing support The main issues to consider include The need to identify the main point of contact for the family and for the parish – Other issues, mentioned above, include length of commitment, the extent of contribution to costs, expectations by the donor of the individual or family eg for upkeep of premises, involvement with donors, acceptable and non-acceptable performance Understanding the balance between providing support to asylum seekers and sensitivity to the need for the family’s independence and freedom of choice. It is an extremely important issue for parishes to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to protect the privacy and freedom of choice of the asylum seeker family. For any parish- interested to discuss accommodation assistance, please contact Agencies already supporting asylum seekers in this area. (House of Welcome, JRS, or JCA)
Resource assessment Before deciding upon offering rental support, the Parish will need to consider the resource implications of such support How much would it cost to rent a property? Consider the financial and other needs of an asylum seeker family. Some asylum seekers have work rights, others don’t. A family without work rights may need more financial support, while a family with work rights may not be able to obtain work. This may place additional support obligations on the parish. These issues can be explored with others who are engaged in this work. The parish will also need to consider its own resources and interests – Is there a committed, reliable group of people in the Parish who could carry this project forward and sustain it over time? Does the parish have the financial resources to part or fully fund rental for a significant period?
* The program would not be open-ended, but one year would probably be the minimum period. O Nor would it be good if other valued programs were to suffer financially from this new commitment.
* How much will be raised from fundraising, and how much from existing funds? Does fundraising need to commence before a final decision can be made?
* Would it be beneficial to partner with a neighbouring parish or organisation? Next Steps If your Parish decides to provide rental support, it will be necessary to work through a range of issues. Ensure that key parish people are on board - the Parish Priest, the Parish finance committee, the local SVdP conference, etc, and are regularly updated. Consider the potential for the project to engage parishioners and other communities, eg the local primary school in the project. How can the project be used to extend awareness of asylum seeker issues? Select and train the parish team.
* Who will lead the project?
* How many parishioners will be directly involved? How will they be selected, considering that they may encounter new issues in relation to religion, culture and family privacy?
* Who will train the parish team? Training may be available from one of the agencies who deal with asylum seekers, including CatholicCare, Jesuit Social Services, and St Vincent de Paul Society.
Consideration for rental assistance
Consider leasehold issues.
• How will the Parish engage with the landlord and real estate agent on behalf of an asylum seeker family? Who will sign the lease documents? o Will the asylum seeker family be required to contribute to the rent? To utilities or other payments? o Consider the leasehold obligations, eg for payment of rent, making good for fair wear and tear. Are responsibilities clear between the landlord, tenant and the Parish? Consider necessary insurances.• o Consider the need to amend parish insurances for any extra risks that may be incurred, eg parish volunteers involved with providing accommodation and interacting with the asylum seeker family. o Public liability insurance cover for the accommodation occupied by the asylum seeker family Consider the needs of the family in relation to food, clothing, schools, transport.• o Is the Parish able to help with any of these? Can Vinnies or other agencies help? o Will the family have access to medical and other services? o Who will keep an eye on the family’s welfare? o If the asylum seeker family are on bridging visas, they may be required to report regularly to an agency such as the Red Cross or SSI. It will be necessary to be clear on what supports the family has, and if there are any gaps which need to be addressed. Providing rental support for Asylum Seekers 3 Consider the needs of the family in relation to everyday support, hospitality and privacy.• o How will these be provided and maintained? o What will the Parish take responsibility for, and will the boundaries regarding responsibilities be clear? o Who will be the Parish contact? o How will the family’s privacy be ensured? Consider how the family will learn to fit in to Australian society.• o Will the parish assist the family to get to know their new environment? If so, the aim should be to assist the family to become empowered to settle – to learn the language, to understand social, political and economic realities, without unnecessary intervention by the parish.