The government has increased the waiting period for newly-arrived migrants to four years before they can access some welfare payments.
While Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget has delivered some tax relief to the low and middle-income earners, newly arrived migrants have been dealt a blow.
From July 1 this year, newly-arrived migrants will have to wait longer to access certain welfare benefits.
They will now wait four years for certain payments including newstart, paid parental leave, carers allowance and the family tax benefit.
Some of these payments are crucial for many migrant families while they are settling down and establishing a consistent source of income after arriving in Australia.
Rajinder Kaur Bhullar moved to Australia with her husband three years ago. She says these payments were very helpful during their initial months in Australia, including when her son was born.
“Family tax benefit and rent assistance were a huge help during the days when I and my husband didn’t have regular jobs and our income was not stable. I can imagine the troubles we would have been in the absence of this help from the government,” Mrs Bhullar told SBS Punjabi.
After her son was born, Mrs Bhullar also received the paid parental leave payment.
The measure to make migrants wait longer to access these payments was announced in the mid-year budget review but the wait period has been extended a further year in the Budget which is likely to save the government $200 million over five years.
However, there are some exemptions for vulnerable groups, including refugees, people coming into sudden financial hardship and victims of domestic violence.
FECCA- the peak representative body of ethnic communities in Australia said it is disappointed with these changes.
“These changes will impose considerable hardship on migrants at the very time they need a little help to settle into their new home,” FECCA Chairperson Mary Patetsos said.
Newly-arrived refugees will also be required to wait six months for the government’s job-active program, up from the current three month period.
Cost-saving measures in the Budget will make refugees wait twice as long for job-search services.
The program connects dole recipients with employment officers, who help applicants improve their resume, offer interview tips and check on progress with job applications.
The government says forcing refugees to wait until they have spent six months on Centrelink before accessing job-active would help them “focus” on other services the government provides on arrival – such as English lessons.
But refugees with good English can access some light support after six weeks.
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