The Australian government has announced new measures that will enable more children to be released onto bridging visas from detention and save taxpayers more than $50 million.

The government has finalised new bridging visa arrangements that it says will provide greater protection and support for young children aged under 10 and their families that will enable them to now be released from detention into the community on bridging visas, if they arrived before 19 July last year.

student visas

The government says the changes will provide greater protection and support for children under 10 and their families​

Immigration minister Scott Morrison said that 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 previously,' he explained.

He revealed that there are now 516 less children in held detention today than at the last election. Under the previous government, there were 1,392 children in detention and there are now 876, including on Nauru, a 38% reduction.

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. Morrison added that 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.

He also said that at the end of the Howard government, there were no children in detention who had arrived illegally by boat. More than 8,000 children turned up on boats during Labour's years in power and the number of children in held detention peaked at almost 2,000 in July last year.

'A year , 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 in the community as possible, especially young children,' said Morrison.

'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. Releasing these young children and their families and those still in held detention on bridging visas has not been an option as Labour's arrangements for bridging visas were insufficient to protect and support young children,' Morrison pointed out.

'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,' he explained.

'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,' he added.

The arrangements are estimated to deliver a saving to taxpayers of more than $50 million and the increased support provided includes assisting families to stay in suitable transitional accommodation and more intensive needs based case worker support so we can stay in touch with the families and be better informed of their welfare.

There will also be support for children to go to school, provision of emergency relief support payments where needed, access to complex health support for especially vulnerable families, orientation programmes that help families adjust to life in the community and understand 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,' Morrison concluded.