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Social Security: big cuts are coming, but not to services

Social Security: big cuts are coming, but not to services

Thursday 21 July 2016

Social Security: big cuts are coming, but not to services

Thursday 21 July 2016

Social security bosses say they can make multi-million pound cuts without affecting services.

In a fractious Scrutiny Panel meeting this week, States members grilled the Social Security team over how they planned to save money.

The Social Security Department alone is set to make £3.5million worth of savings, around 20% of their budget, as outlined in the current Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), set to be discussed by the States in September.  

But Social Security Chief Officer Ian Burns said although cuts will be made, services will not be affected as departments would be made “leaner and more efficient.”

Deputy Richard Renouf asked about the ‘Back to Work’ scheme - begun three and a half years ago and designed to shorten unemployment queues on the Island - involving savings of £2million, with the loss of 10 full time staff members by 2019. 

He said: “Can you explain how you would make that saving without affecting services as £2m is a lot of money?”

Mr Burns said: “It’s a balancing act, but we are confident we have flexibility to keep services at the same level, while being leaner and more efficient. 

“We don’t believe we need any redundancies to lower the working count by 10 people. We can manage that through natural turnover in this period. 

“‘Back to Work’ is very different today as it was when it started and it will be different three years from now. We expect mainstream unemployment to continue to reduce and we believe that we will be able to continue to reduce mainstream unemployment and still make savings of £2m.”  

Deputy Geoff Southern, who has stood unsuccessfully to become Social Services Minister, said: “The two halves of that argument don’t make sense.”

Grants and subsidies to JET (Jersey Employment Trust), JACS (Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service) and the Health and Safety Council (HSC) have been slashed by 8%, but the Minister insisted services to users will not be affected. 

Social Security Minister Susie Pinel said: “JET, JACS and HSC have been asked to make cuts to the administration side of their organisations. They will provide no change in their service, but they will become a more efficient service. We believe we can bring about these savings by being leaner and more efficient.”

Mr Burns added: “The reductions are roughly 8% of their budgets and they have committed to that. All three organisations are very professional and are confident they can make the changes required without affecting services. They are convinced they can make improvements to efficiency. We have asked them to maintain the same level of services - that’s the aim. If they can maintain the same level of services with less people then that’s OK. We have asked them to maintain their services and they believe they can.

“I’m not saying they are going to have head count reductions. I’m saying we have asked them to maintain the service they provide.” 

Deputy Jackie Hilton said: “That is a real concern to me because you are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society. They may be neglected and pushed to the side and I’m not convinced.”

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