The Government has finalised new bridging visa arrangements that provide greater protection and support for young children, aged under ten, and their families that will enable them to now be released from detention into the community on bridging visas, if they arrived prior to July 19 last year.
This initiative builds on the success the Government has already had on reducing the number of children in detention.
Stopping the boats is not only saving lives but it is keeping and getting children out of detention.
You can’t reduce the number of children in detention when every child you release into the community is replaced by another coming in on the next boat, as occurred under Labor.
There are now 516 less children in held detention today than there was at the last election.
When Labor left office there were 1,392 children in held detention, there are now 876, including on Nauru, a 38% reduction under the Coalition’s border protection policies. At the same time the proportion of children living in the community awaiting processing has increased from 70% at the time of the election, to more than 80% today.
On Christmas Island the results have been more significant with the number of children in detention declining from 425 to 148 as at the end of July.
When the Howard Government left office there were no children in detention who had arrived illegally by boat. More than 8,000 children turned up on boats during Labor’s years of failed border policies and the number of children in held detention peaked at almost 2,000 in July last year.
A year later, there is less than half that number in held detention.
Our success in getting children out of detention is why we have been able to announce the closure of family detention facilities in Darwin, South Australia and on Christmas Island.
It has always been the Abbott Government’s policy to place as many children into the community as possible especially young children.
To date, the only way this could be safely done for children under 10 is by placement in community residential facilities as part of the community detention programme.
There were 1,547 children in residential accommodation as part of the community detention programme at the end of July.
Releasing these young children and their families and those still in held detention on bridging visas has not been an option as Labor’s arrangements for bridging visas were insufficient to protect and support young children.
This lack of support arrangements would put young children at risk if released into the community on these visas.
As a result, for some months the government has been working on improved support arrangements for families and young children to enable their supported release into the community on bridging visas.
I have now approved these new support arrangements for families with children on bridging visas that address these weaknesses. The arrangements extend the care and support that is provided in community based residential detention to those released on bridging visas.
These arrangements are estimated to deliver a saving to taxpayers of more than $50 million over the forward estimates by no longer having to meet the higher costs of held and community detention.
The increased support provided under the new arrangements includes:
- sourcing and assisting families to stay in suitable transitional accommodation
- more intensive needs based case worker support so we can stay in touch with the families and be better informed of their welfare
- supporting the children to go to school
- provision of emergency relief support payments where needed
- access to complex health support for especially vulnerable families
- access to orientation programmes that help families adjust to life in the community and understand our laws and behaviour expectations, and
- access to English language courses.
This support will enable families with children to be more self-sustaining and resilient in the community while they await the completion of their processing.
These changes represent good policy, common sense and a compassionate response to dealing with this significant problem left to us by the previous government.
The government’s full suite of strong border protection policies to stop illegal boats remains in place. People who arrived in Australia illegally by boat after 19 July 2013 are subject to offshore processing. It is the government’s policy to intercept and return boats seeking to illegally enter Australia.