It was a payment designed to assist women and children fleeing violence, but a new report has revealed that the majority of applications are being rejected, leading to the obvious question: what’s the point in introducing a family violence payment only to make it impossibly difficult to get?
The escaping violence payment (EVP) was introduced in 2021 by the Federal Government to offer financial assistance to help families set up a home free of violence.
Under the scheme, survivors of family violence can access up to $1,500 in cash and up to $3,500 in goods and services, such as removalists, to help them leave a violent home.
Yet newly released data to Senate estimates shows that more than half of people trying to access EVP are having their claims rejected.
Between July and September 2023, 57,041 applications were made for the EVP, but only 29,437 were deemed eligible.
The need for women and children to leave family violence situations quickly has never been clearer. According to advocacy group, Counting Dead Women Australia, two women have already died from violence this year. We’re just two weeks into this year.
The number of women being rejected for EVP has raised alarm bells, with groups including CSMC, claiming it shows that applying for EVP is too difficult and the payment is not reaching the women who need it most, putting lives in real danger.
Staggeringly, in a statement the government says that Uniting, the provider that runs the EVP, does not keep data on why applications were not processed.
We ask, why is Uniting not keeping this data as, presumably, the lack of such data removes the right of any desperate woman to challenge the decision? When Centrelink refuses a payment, women can immediately ask for an explanation or seek a review, or make a complaint. How much is the government paying Uniting for this very imperfect service?
“The service provider has advised that the most common reasons are because the eligibility criteria were not met, the service provider was unable to recontact the applicant or the applicant otherwise determined not to proceed with the application,” the department spokesperson said.
It’s the “applicant otherwise determined not to proceed with the application” that especially concerns CSMC. Not proceeding with an application is rarely due to a change of heart, rather a direct result of a difficult and convoluted application process that many women, especially those dealing with the enormous issues arising from family violence, do not have the capacity to deal with.
According to the Guardian, a recent review found there were difficulties in establishing eligibility for the payment because people did not have the right supporting documentation, such as a police or doctor’s report.
Some clients struggled to demonstrate financial hardship because they did not have a bank account in their name.
The EVP is also explicitly limiting. It cannot be accessed by people experiencing other forms of family violence, such as elder abuse, visa holders and people who have left a violent relationship more than 12 weeks ago.
The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, has said the government is monitoring the payment. CSMC hopes that with a woman dying every week from family violence, the monitoring is soon replaced by action.