More than half of the individuals seeking emergency financial support for domestic and family violence are being denied their claims, according to new data. Between July and September of last year, there were 57,041 applications for the escaping violence payment (EVP), but only 29,437 were deemed eligible. The EVP program allows survivors to access up to $1,500 in cash and up to $3,500 in goods and services to assist them in leaving an abusive partner.
Of the applicants, approximately 89% identified as female and 9% identified as male. Furthermore, 54% of the applicants had one or more children under the age of 18. This data highlights the gendered nature of domestic violence and the impact it has on families.
Tragically, two women have already lost their lives to violence this year. Counting Dead Women Australia, an advocacy group that tracks violent deaths, reported a total of 63 deaths in 2023. These alarming figures underscore the urgent need for effective support systems and resources for victims.
Advocates argue that the current eligibility criteria for the EVP payment are too narrow and exclude many individuals who desperately need assistance. They are calling on the government to broaden the criteria to ensure that the right people have access to financial support when they need it most. However, the government maintains that those who are unable to access the EVP payment are referred to other programs.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services explained that the most common reasons for rejected applications were failure to meet the eligibility criteria, inability to contact the applicant, or the applicant choosing not to proceed with the application. A review conducted in May of last year identified difficulties in establishing eligibility due to a lack of supporting documentation, such as police or doctor’s reports. Additionally, some clients struggled to demonstrate financial hardship because they did not have a bank account in their name or faced challenges in proving their intention to leave the abusive environment.
Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, criticized the current eligibility criteria as “limiting” and called for swift adjustments. She stressed that the EVP payment is widely supported by the sector and could be expanded to include more individuals in need.
The payment is currently unavailable to those experiencing other forms of family violence, such as elder abuse, as well as temporary visa holders and individuals who left a violent relationship more than 12 weeks ago. Last year’s review recommended extending the eligibility criteria to encompass temporary visa holders and individuals affected by different types of violence.
In conclusion, the escaping violence payment plays a crucial role in supporting survivors of domestic and family violence. Access to social security is vital in helping individuals escape abusive situations and regain stability. However, there is a pressing need for the government to address the limitations of the current eligibility criteria and ensure that financial support reaches those who need it most..