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"We have to help all citizens who benefit the island"

Friday 05 August 2022

"We have to help all citizens who benefit the island"

Friday 05 August 2022


A poverty-focused charity is calling for the Government to expand its cost of living measures and do more to help those without five years' residency.

Caritas Jersey – a Catholic-based think-tank and campaign group which administers the Living Wage in the island – argues that the "welcome" three-month 2% fall in Social Security Contributions announced in the 'mini budget' should be extended to March.

It also says that the Government should do more for islanders with less than five-years residency, who aren’t eligible for many of the support packages announced on Wednesday, and that Deputy Gorst should

"Praise where praise is due"

Chief Executive Patrick Lynch said: “We have to praise where praise is due: Treasury Minister Ian Gorst and Social Security Minister Elaine Millar did engage with us, as well as their officers; the previous Council of Ministers would not have done that.

“And I have to say, the broad package of measures went further than I expected. The 12% rise in income tax thresholds is definitely a step in the right direction, even if prior taxpayers won’t see the benefit straight away.

“They also took into account rising inflation, which is welcome.”

He added: “The cut in employee Social Security contributions from 6% to 4% for the fourth quarter of this year is excellent news, however, we don’t feel it goes far enough.

"The autumn and winter months are the most challenging"

“When you consider the cost of living crisis, the autumn and winter months are the most challenging – when utility bills go up, those with seasonal-related jobs see their income go down, and people naturally spend more at Christmas.

“Not to have included January, February and March was a mistake because it means that one hand is simply taking from the other. We call for the contribution cut to be extended.” 

Lynch

Pictured: Caritas Jersey Chief Executive Patrick Lynch.

"Something has to be done now"

Mr Lynch said that Caritas was also asking for more support for those people who have not been resident for five years, who aren’t eligible for the Cost of Living Temporary Scheme, cold-weather allowance and other measures. 

He said: “Deputy Millar did say that the Government would explore setting up a scheme early in 2023 but that is not good enough for people in poverty here and now. We do, of course, understand the issues around population and migration policy, but we live in unique and extraordinary times with this cost of living crisis.

“Inflation could be 15% by early 2022 - something has to be done now, and we have to help all citizens who benefit the island. We need certainty and detail in the run-up to Christmas.”

Call for Treasury Minister to honour manifesto pledge

Mr Lynch added that the Government also needed to help with fuel costs and utility bills.

“We are asking for a 10p duty cut on fuel, which Deputy Gorst also included in his manifesto,” he said. 

Fuel petrol pump station unleaded.jpeg

Pictured: Caritas Jersey want the Government to cut fuel duty by 10p a litre because, they argue, lower income families are often more reliant on a car.

“We’re not supportive of a cut in GST because it makes very little difference to a family who might get help from a food bank.

“However, those working as, for example, carers and cleaners need their car to get to multiple places around the island during the day and evening. In contrast, many above the poverty line are able to work from home.

“When it comes to utilities, we think the Government should help those most in need with their bills. Food banks do provide vouchers. Previously, it was usually just over the winter months but now demand is year-round and the charities are running out of money. The Government needs to step into help.”

Minimum wage

When it comes to the minimum wage, Mr Lynch said he was pleased that the Government had committed to raise it from its current £9.22 to £10 an hour in October and £10.80 an hour from 1 January.

However, he was concerned that the Employment Forum – which proposes the level – might “water down” the January rise after consulting with employers.

He added that Caritas wanted to see an agreed timetable from the Government on how the minimum wage would rise to the Living Wage, currently £11.27, which it has pledged to align by 2026.

Welcome pension increase

Meanwhile Age Concern President Ben Shenton said he welcomed a 7.7% increase in the state pension, which will take the full rate from £235 a week to £253.

“It will make a difference. The Council of Ministers has announced an imaginative mini budget which brings in other benefits for pensioners and should certainly help them get through this cost of living crisis," he said.

“It’s nice to have the pension rise but on its own, it wouldn’t be enough. However, ministers are bringing in other measures to help, such as the increase to the Community Cost Bonus and a £70-a-month cold weather payment.

"Hats off to the Government; they are trying to do a few things and I am surprised that they have acted so quickly. I love to have a moan and as you get older you moan a little more, but when you go through what they are trying to do, with the levers available to them, it is actually quite a good budget because it is targeted at those on lower incomes.”

old person pensioner nurse

Pictured: A 7.7% increase in the States' pension and an rise in income tax threshold have been welcomed by Age Concern.

Mr Shenton added that Age Concern would focus on getting the message out to the 6,000 islanders who are eligible for the Community Cost Bonus but don’t currently claim it, and also trying to persuade Government to reopen its Customer Services Centre to allow islanders to walk in at times convenient to them.

Mini budget review

The newly formed Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, led by Deputy Sam Mézec, has announced that it is carrying out its first review into the £56.5m mini budget.

The Deputy said: "The panel wishes to investigate whether the proposed mini-budget will actually address the most pressing needs among islanders, with particular concern for low-income households who will be hardest hit by rising costs.

"To assess whether this is the case, we will be asking those most affected to share their views on the suggested proposals and use this feedback to inform our report before the support package is debated by the States Assembly.”

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