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Comment: Jersey poverty is worse than you think

Comment: Jersey poverty is worse than you think

Monday 19 February 2018

Comment: Jersey poverty is worse than you think

Monday 19 February 2018

Unlike the perception fostered by much of the UK media, islanders know that in reality, Jersey is not populated exclusively by the super-wealthy.

Whilst it is undeniably an affluent community, the latest statistics suggest that real poverty locally is a growing problem - the scale of which Express columnist Kevin Keen says he found very surprising.

"I have always known I was a very lucky person, just how lucky became so much clearer when I attended the Just About Managing Conference organised by Brighter Futures a few weeks ago. To be honest I had not really realised the true scale of poverty in Jersey. After all, there are no beggars on our streets or other obvious signs of poverty, so for me and I suspect others, this huge problem can be very much out of sight, and therefore, out of mind.

As a father, and now grandfather, the presentation by Deborah McMillan, the newly appointed Children’s Commissioner really shook me; it was supported by some very compelling statistics about our island, including:

  • 1 in 10 households were in severe material deprivation.
  • 44% of single parent families had difficulty coping financially. Based on the 2011 census that is about 1,500 families.
  • 25% of couples with at least one child had difficulty coping financially. Again based on the 2011 census that is getting on for 3,000 families.
  • 23% of households with children have gone without new clothing for their child over the last year.
  • A third of all households have difficulty saving at least £10 per month for emergencies.

These disturbing facts  & others were drawn from the Jersey Opinions & Lifestyle Survey published a few months ago. You can see it here, if like me you missed it.

Discussing what I had learned at the conference, and the impression it had made on me, with friends, has given me further cause to think.  Before our conversations moved on to what we wanted from Jersey for ourselves, opinions were expressed that the problems of poverty here are self-inflicted, or that there was much greater poverty elsewhere, so things are really not too bad.

Whilst readers might share some of these views, they are almost certain to agree with Ms McMillan that these levels of poverty are not the fault of the children: they surely deserve better from our Island? The experience of the Better Futures team is that children from poor families very often end growing up to be the parents in a poor family. It's a vicious circle with consequences for the whole community as well as that family.

Surely all the brains, goodwill and money in Jersey can solve this problem? The business case must be a compelling one, let alone the human imperative.

Our government will soon be unveiling a new vision for Jersey, I really hope the eradication of poverty or at least severe material deprivation, within a reasonable timescale, will be a key part of that vision. If not for the grown-ups then at least for the children.

As Nelson Mandela said: 'There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.' Let’s try and find ways to change things for the better, for everyone."

The views expressed in this article are those of Mr Keen personally, and are not necessarily shared by Bailiwick Express or any of the companies Mr Keen represents. 

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