A charity CEO has called for "more targeted" measures to help those most impacted by the cost of living crisis, following the announcement that the Government's GP cost reduction scheme does not apply to the fee currently paid by low income islanders.
Announcing the cost reduction scheme earlier this week, Social Security Minster Elaine Millar explained that those on the Health Access Scheme – which includes all members of an Income Support household, and all islanders in receipt of the Pension Plus scheme – already pay a reduced fee of £12 for a GP, and so the £20 reduction will not be applied.
However Patrick Lynch, CEO of Caritas Jersey – a local "social justice charity aiming to end poverty, promote justice, and restore dignity" – described the growing number of people approaching the organisation who "cannot even afford to pay the reduced GP fee" of £12.
Pictured: Patrick Lynch, CEO of charity Caritas Jersey.
Mr Lynch agreed that the cost reduction scheme was a "in general, a really good measure", particularly as "so many people are struggling at the moment, not just those in the worst poverty".
However he explained that, by not reducing the cost for those on the Health Access Scheme, "small charities" with "limited resources" like Caritas are still left to foot the bill for the poorest members of society.
Excellent news @ElaineMillarJsy. As said elsewhere though we would like to have seen the £12 fee for those most in need, removed, as they will still struggle to afford and charities like us will still end up picking up the tab for them not @GovJersey . Hopefully this may follow?— Caritas Jersey CEO (@CaritasJsyCeo) May 31, 2023
The charity CEO said that "any reduction [in GP fees] is welcome, but it needs to be more targeted", explaining that it is "very regular" for Caritas to be asked for help to pay the reduced £12 GP fee "on a daily or weekly basis".
"Should charities like ourselves really be picking up the tab?" he asked.
Mr Lynch spoke of one of Caritas' clients, who is left with "net zero" as soon as they have paid their rent and bills at the start of each month, and uses a food bank to be able to eat.
"Unfortunately, this person has a health issue so also needs to see their GP which means that Caritas has covered the £12 fee," he explained. "£12 doesn't seem like a lot but it adds up to a considerable amount over a year."
Pictured: Deputy Millar also said yesterday that she hopes that free GP visits for children could also be in place as soon as July.
The Caritas CEO admitted that the charity has noticed "an increase in that kind of need over the past 12 or 18 months".
"Not helping the poorest islanders negates the real impact of the [Government] policy," added Mr Lynch.
Commenting on Deputy Millar's announcement that she hopes that free GP visits for children could also be in place as soon as July, Mr Lynch said that this is "great" but added that the Government "needs to support people at every stage of life – particularly those who are vulnerable in health or financial situation".
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