SOCIAL SECURITY

We believe that the provision of “Social Security” should revert to the Parish system. However, in the interim:

  • We believe that the Department of Social Security was originally founded to assist the sick and disabled and help to support the Island’s pensioners. We believe that a reformed Department of Social Security should return to these first principles.

  • We believe that State pension contributions should be ring-fenced and managed to the requirements of pensioners.

  • We believe it should be easier for people to enrol in workplace pensions and to top up their State pensions.

  • We believe that there is still an over-reliance on work licences, temporary contracts, and other work-arounds which allow employers, including the States of Jersey off the hook as far as the training and employment of local staff is concerned.

We believe that the poaching of highly qualified personnel from less developed countries into permanent positions is a bad practice and should be phased out. We believe that this has a detrimental effect on the country which has spent a considerable amount of money training those personnel and it diminishes the opportunities available to the local workforce. However, we believe that there are circumstances where, on an ad hoc, and “necessity” basis that skilled staff could be brought in to Jersey however, we do not believe these short term contracts should be abused, allowed to “roll over” or provide a permanent churn or revolving door where one contract comes to an end and another immediately begins. Thus again allowing employers off the hook as far as the training of local staff is concerned.

A Skills Based Immigration System

We applaud the recent decision of the British people to vote to leave the EU. We believe it was a typical anti-democratic reaction for Jersey’s Government to deny the people a vote in the first place. We believe it is typical of that instinct that our politicians now seek to continue with business as usual and as if the BREXIT vote never happened.

Immigration is the No1 concern for the people of Jersey, not just in terms of numbers but quality too and yet Jersey’s politicians remain wilfully and quite aggressively set against those concerns.

We believe that without the complicating factor of Protocol 3 Jersey should, at the earliest opportunity, move to an Australian-style “skills based” immigration system which will allow us to better plan for our future employment, housing and allied infrastructure needs. It is possible that this could include an interim work permit system.

Benefit Fraud

We believe that Benefit Fraud is a statistically small phenomenon but a reality nonetheless. We believe it is right to support all measures necessary to crack down on this crime.

Entitlement

We believe that no one should be entitled to Income Support, regardless of their personal situation until and unless they have paid in to the system for a minimum of 5 years. This can be mitigated by new residents taking out insurance against periods of absence from work due to sickness and ill health as well as from redundancy.

We believe that it cannot be right to allow people to circumvent Jersey’s Income Support and Housing laws by virtue of pregnancy and childbirth. We believe that these anomalies and loopholes need to be investigated as a matter of urgency and then closed.

We believe that family and child allowance should only be paid for spouses and children present in the Island with exceptions being made only for some serious medical conditions requiring long term care in the UK or overseas.

We believe that greater attention must be paid to the overseas assets of those claiming benefits in the Island.

We believe that it is right and proper to expect citizens to work and contribute to society when they are physically and mentally able so to do.

We believe that a dumbed down education system, a generous benefits system and relatively low entry level/menial wages results in the perception that joblessness can be a lifestyle choice.

We believe that improvements need to be made in the education system to give all of our children the best possible range of opportunities commensurate with their talents and aptitudes. In the case of adults made redundant through no fault of their own, adequate retraining and/or skills upkeep opportunities and support should be provided.

We believe that the minimum level of pay should increase. There is a myth that local staff will not do certain jobs. This myth is usually put about by those who benefit from employing cheap, foreign labour. It has been proven, particularly in Nordic countries like Finland and Norway that if one pays one’s employees a decent living wage then one has no trouble finding and then retaining local staff.

We believe that it should be made easier to move between IS and temporary/seasonal employment and back again. Often there are unnecessary delays resulting in hardship which act as a deterrent to accepting offers of employment in some sectors under certain circumstances.

We believe that with a) an improved education system, b) improved opportunities by a broadening and diversifying the job market, c) improved wages by raising the minimum wage and increasing workplace based savings and pensions schemes, and d) improved conditions with vastly reduced zero-hours contract use – there will be no excuse (outside of illness, disability or redundancy) for choosing a life of benefits over work.

Pensions

We believe that a review should be carried out into how the cost of living effects those older Islanders, especially pensioners, who live on a fixed income.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Child Benefit

We believe that child benefit should be means tested and limited in any case to the first two children for all new claimants and that under no circumstance should child benefit be paid for children who are not physically resident in the Island or are born to parents who have not paid in for the minimum required 5-year period.

Disabled Persons

We believe that disabled people have a great deal to offer the community and every effort should be made to help those who can work back to work or to find employers who will allow home working where this is appropriate.

Very often disabled people are hampered by the logistics of getting to and from an office. This may very well be helped by the initiative recently championed by Deputy Monty Tadier to provide free bus passes to disabled people to aid with their mobility and socialisation. However, we believe that this benefit should be means tested. Those earning over a certain threshold (to be determined) should not qualify.

We believe that there are severely disabled people who, due to the nature of their disabilities, will be incapable of working. Being severely disabled is stressful enough without having to worry about the “clunking great fist” of the State on top of what are often severely testing times for families and loved ones, as well as for the disabled person themselves.

Sadly, on this score, particularly where disabled residents are concerned, Jersey does not always get it right and sometimes falls woefully, and embarrassingly short.

In the provision of benefits and housing, disabled people are often an afterthought. The Disability Discrimination Act, law in the UK since 1995 and replaced by the Equalities Act of 2010, should be the absolute bare minimum standard that disabled people should be able to expect. Yet, we are told that Jersey’s Disability Laws are 30 years behind comparable counties in mainland Europe.

In the article referred to above Deputy Susan Pinel, said that the law against disability discrimination was the last to be introduced as part of a series of discrimination legislation because “it was the most complicated”. She said disability was difficult to legally define, and that the changes needed to be brought in gradually to allow time for businesses and retailers to provide wheelchair access.

We believe that this is arrant nonsense, a cop out, yet again consigning disabled people to an afterthought. Disability is not difficult to define, Jersey’s Social Security Department does it every day. The UK has had a Disability Discrimination Act since 1995 which has subsequently been replaced as mentioned above and has many other protections for its disabled citizens besides. It is not rocket science and many countries around the world have been shaming Jersey in this area for years.

To suggest that businesses and retailers need more time to address the issue of access is deeply offensive. How much more of the 21st century should we grant people to bring their businesses up to late 20th century standards of decency?

The Equalities Act of 2010 defines disability as follows:

A person has a disability if –

[they have] a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

We are not overly fond of following the UK’s lead on every little thing and we are rightly critical of those for whom such a course of action seems to be their default setting but we believe the above definition seems like a very good place to start when looking for one of our own.

We believe that the States of Jersey should commit to enshrining the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into Law with some urgency.

We believe that disabled people should not be on the lowest rung when it comes to the provision of housing but often are. We believe that no disabled person should be intentionally placed in unsuitable accommodation except where that accommodation can be developed to provide suitable accommodation. Where a property is incapable of being altered to suit the needs of the disabled person they should be moved to more suitable accommodations as soon as such becomes available as a matter of urgency.

We believe that no disabled person should face the prospect of being financially penalised if they become so unwell as to need full time care. We are aware, from first-hand experience as well as anecdotally that severely disabled people are penalised financially if their loved ones give up work to care for them. Furthermore, we are aware of couples being told that if they want to receive more money (or lose less) then their main option is to split up and live separate lives. This is an absolute disgrace. How dare we as a society penalise the most vulnerable and those who care for them in such a callous way.

Zero Hours Contracts

We recognise that zero-hours contracts may suit some people under some circumstances, we do not believe in proscription per se. We do, however, believe they are too often abused and we believe it is right to introduce a legally binding Code of Conduct.

There must be no exclusivity clauses in any zero-hours contract. To prevent people from working elsewhere when they have no guarantee of regular work, will be banned. Workers on zero-hours contracts must be given at least twelve hours advance notice of work. Once notice has been given, they must be paid for the work, regardless of whether or not they are actually needed. Employers will not be permitted to expect a worker to turn up for work, only to be turned away again, when no work is available.

 

Carers

We believe that those who care full time for parents, children and spouses get a shockingly raw deal. In the UK carers save the Government £119 billion per annum, which is almost the same as the total annual cost of the NHS. This is a staggering amount of money which even then only shows one side of the equation. What isn’t shown is the amount of revenue lost in taxes and spending power by carers when they make the decision to give up jobs and careers to look after their loved ones.

We believe it is shocking that when a spouse leaves work to care for a severely disabled partner and claims carers allowance, the severely disabled partner is penalised by having their benefits reduced commensurately. We believe that as a community, we owe carers a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay. The very least we can do is ensure they are supported to the level of the minimum wage. The sad fact is, even taking this additional expense into consideration, carers will still be saving us many millions of pounds every year. We believe that carers, selflessly dedicated to the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our community represent the very best of us and should be recognised as such.

 

Food-banks

We believe that the sight of foodbanks in Jersey is bad enough but it is a scandal that their number and use is growing. We believe it shames us as a relatively wealthy and prosperous 21st Century community. We further believe that if those who attend foodbanks are in such dire straits that they need food handouts, there is a high likelihood that they will also need additional support to deal with issues such as debt, family breakdown, addiction and poor physical or mental health. Many will need employment or legal advice.

We believe that we should set a realistic goal as a community to eradicate the need for food-banks entirely. However, until that time it is right and proper to contribute to the important work done by the food-banks themselves and the organisations behind them. We believe we should consult widely amongst the voluntary and faith based sectors to see what additional help and resources may be applied, what initiatives work elsewhere, particularly regarding supermarket food wastage, which may be copied here in Jersey and what regulations need relaxing or cutting altogether to help these organisations deliver aid to the needy in the quickest and most effective way possible.