Asylum seekers and income management

Parliament house flag post

Asylum seekers and income management

Posted 6/06/2013 by Luke Buckmaster

Asylum seeker vessel
The Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, recently proposed that certain asylum seekers living in the community should be required to work on community projects in exchange for food and accommodation vouchers. The vouchers would be instead of cash, which Mr Morrison said could be used to pay 'people smugglers debts'. The Immigration Minister, Brendan O'Connor indicated that the idea was one 'worth considering'.

While media reports and commentary have suggested a relationship between the 'work for vouchers' proposal and income management, there are actually some significant differences between the two.

Income management refers to a policy under which a percentage of the income support payments of certain people are set aside to be spent only on ‘priority goods and services’ such as food, housing, clothing, education and health care.

The first important difference between income management and 'work for vouchers' is that while the former is applied to Australian Government income support payments, asylum seekers do not receive such payments. Income support payments are generally only paid to Australian residents.  Instead, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) provides financial assistance to asylum seekers living in the community (those with a bridging visa) under the Asylum Seeker Assistance (ASA) Scheme. The ASA Scheme is administered by the Australian Red Cross under contract to DIAC. Assistance is paid at the rate of 89% of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Special Benefit (which is generally paid at the same rate as Newstart Allowance) and (where eligible) 89% of DHS Rent Assistance. Currently, a single person with no children in shared rental accommodation receiving assistance under the ASA Scheme may be eligible for a maximum of $515 per fortnight.

If the 'work for vouchers' scheme was to be brought within the framework of DHS income support, it could open up the possibility of access by asylum seekers to various protections, including appeals mechanisms under Australia's income support arrangements and complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act (for a discussion about the relationship between income management and the Racial Discrimination Act, see this Parliamentary Library research paper).

Second, while income management generally quarantines around 50% of a person's income support, 'work for vouchers' seems to be a proposal for 100% quarantining. Therefore, while those on income management have discretion over how they spend (usually) half of their payments, it seems that those on 'work for vouchers' would have no discretion at all.

Third, most people on income management are under the Participation/Parenting model in the Northern Territory. Participation/Parenting income management has the objective of providing support to payment recipients to encourage participation in work, education and training. It is targeted at those whose length of stay on particular payments is deemed to put them at risk of disengagement from economic and social participation. People who meet the criteria for this form of income management may apply for an exemption on the basis of evidence of a range of activities deemed to qualify as participation. Important differences between this and 'work for vouchers' would include:
  • asylum seekers would already be participating in community work (albeit not necessarily voluntarily) and 
  • asylum seekers on bridging visas who arrived unauthorised by boat after 13 August 2012 are not entitled to participate in the labour market or most education and training activities.
Overall, Participation/Parenting income management is strongly tied to the Government's 'Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory' policy (previously known as the 'Northern Territory Emergency Response' or the 'Intervention'), a key objective of which is to bring some stability to communities experiencing significant social problems. The 'work for vouchers' proposal's quite different rationale is to ensure payments are not diverted to pay people smuggler debts.

Fourth, each of the most recent expansions of income management have been targeted at specific individuals in crisis situations, such as where a person has been deemed by a DHS social worker as vulnerable to financial crisis or where a child is at risk of neglect. Examples of this include Place-based Income Management and income management in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (South Australia) and Ngaanyatjarra Lands (NG Lands) and Laverton Shire (Western Australia). An asylum seekers 'work for vouchers' form of income management would represent a significant change in the trajectory of income management in that it would appear to be focused on all receiving assistance, rather than just those in crisis situations.

In general, most asylum seekers don't tend to face the sorts of problems that income management is intended to address. Indeed, evidence suggests that most refugees receive intensive support at first but have high levels of economic and social participation over time.
Image source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Australian Public Service income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations industrial relations constitution transport politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour food public service reform environment aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health international relations governance regulation Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police labour force people smuggling debt New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme Human rights crime China leadership Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers food labelling Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy ANZUS Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion paternalism US presidential election nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top