It is feared that drastic reductions to the number of people eligible for support under the Status Resolution Support Services Program (SRSS) could create enormous hardship for already vulnerable people.
The Uniting Church in Australia joins other refugee advocates in calling for the harsh changes to be reversed.
“We have a moral obligation to support people coming to Australia seeking safety and protection,” said Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan.
“People depend on these payments and support services to rebuild their lives. Like us, they want freedom, safety and the ability to care for their families.”
“They deserve to live with dignity - not be forced into destitution.”
The SRSS Program supports people living in Australia while their application for protection is being assessed – a process which can take between 2-10 years.
It provides a basic living allowance (usually 89% of Newstart allowance, or $247 per week), help to find housing and access to torture and trauma counselling.
Currently about 12,000 people living in Australia access this support. New criteria introduced by Department of Home Affairs from the start of April will mean current recipients who are assessed as being fit for work could be transitioned off the program.
Reports have suggested that up to 7000 people might lose access to the payments.
Organisations that support people seeking asylum say many of their clients are already coming to their doors for help with rent, food, medical services and other basic necessities, and these changes will only plunge them further into crisis.