We’d like to thank everyone who provided us with information. Sometimes the smallest bit was the most valuable as it set us on the right path. One of the strengths of our sector is this ability to share information and collaborate.
DSS recently announced that funding had been allocated for a new pilot for temporary visa holders experiencing violence. There is $10 million in total for 12 months with :
The funding is for 12 months and DSS expect the services to come online by end April 2021.
DSS have provided the funding to the Australian Red Cross to deliver targeted support to women on temporary visas who may be unable to access social services and welfare payments due to their visa status.
The Australian Red Cross will be provided up to $3,000 to eligible women on temporary visas, to help them cover expenses such as accommodation and medical care when leaving a violent relationship.
It is expected this trial program will assist around 1225 women on temporary visas over the 12-month trial period
The Australian Red Cross was chosen in part because of its:
The legal assistance services:
As well as providing the funded services, one of the stated intentions of the pilot is to create an evidence base to help shape future support for women on temporary visas experiencing violence.
We welcome the opportunities that this provides for women on temporary visas experiencing violence and the community legal centres that have been chosen to deliver them services. At the same time we have concerns about the decision making process and the timelines provided, what it means for Centres who were made an offer and what it means for Centres who weren’t even considered.
Please note: We have not been able to locate a media release from Minister Ruston on this issue. If you know where it is, please email email@example.com.
Since we became aware of this funding on 8 April we have been following up with our contacts in both AGD and DSS to find out as much as we can.
The Centres who have been offered the funding are bound by confidentiality and we must respect that it is difficult for them to come forward and share information at this stage in the process.
This funding is being led and administered by DSS, not by AGD who are our main points of contact in the Commonwealth. There had been some contact between DSS and AGD on this issue late last year but funding factors (relatively small pool, short timeframes for delivery and limited to 12 months) did not favour rolling the DSS funding into the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP).
We understand that:
From speaking with the DSS contact it appears that they are moving at a cracking pace and little can be done to slow them down. They are determined that the services need to commence as soon as possible.
We have a number of concerns in relation to this funding. We have set them out in short format here to save time:
At this stage, we are unable to comment on the quantum of funding that was offered to each Centre, but if we assume that each of the 9 services was offered the same amount of money (unlikely), the average offer would be about $389 000.
We can only assume this is an attempted quick fix solution as the government realises it faces increasing political difficulties due to its lack of action on domestic and sexual violence.
We remain in discussion with both AGD and DSS about what is possible in terms of improving the implementation of the current funding and being involved in future funding decisions.
Our advocacy for the last few years has been that NLAP (and the NPA before it) ought to be the primary mechanism for the delivery of Commonwealth funding for legal assistance. Our relationships with the part of AGD that administer NLAP (the Legal Assistance Branch) are strong, and we have developed relationships across the AGD portfolio. However occasions like this DSS funding will likely arise and it’s important for us to keep developing relationships focused on a whole of government approach so that opportunities aren’t missed.
We would offer to facilitate a strategic conversation but don’t think this will make a difference in the current circumstances and will exclude Centres that have been offered funding. This is something we can consider doing after the legal service providers have been announced.
For those who wish to change the course we appear to be on, our recommendation is to meet with Minister Ruston as soon as possible
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