“Reform Jersey believes that our Social Security system should be there to help those who are in need and provide support for Islanders to get back on their feet when they fall on hard times. The system should be compassionate and guided by principles of common-sense, to ensure that everybody receives what they are fairly entitled to.”
Under the current government, the Social Security budget was the first in the firing line, with £10m of support for pensioners, disabled people and single-parent families cut. The government took this action before waiting for the independent Statistics Unit to publish their findings on levels of poverty in Jersey. We subsequently found out that rates of poverty for pensioners and single parent households were exacerbated by these decisions. The lack of compassion that has been shown towards the vulnerable in our community must end.
To fill the predicted shortfall in the Social Security fund, the department has held a consultation with leading questions to justify future benefit cuts and increases in the qualifying period for contributory benefits. Reform Jersey will oppose every attempt to cut support for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community. Instead, we will propose reducing the benefits bill by raising low wages.
We pledge to reform our Social Security Contributions’ system to ensure that all Islanders pay their fair share, based on their income. We will raise the cap on contributions, which limits the percentage paid by high earners, so that they will pay an equal rate to low and middle earners.
At the start of this term of office, the Council of Ministers promised that it would reform Class 2 contributions (paid by self-employed people), however they have failed to do so.
We will reduce the rate for Class 2 contributions for self-employed people on lower incomes, to assist those who are starting businesses and are worried about losing their rights to contributory benefits as a safety net if their business does not succeed. This will enable those people to invest more in their businesses, employ workers and take risks.
Since Income Support replaced Parish Welfare a decade ago, there has been no full-scale review to evaluate the success of this scheme and ensure that it is being targeted and accessed properly by those in need. We will support a review, with the objective of making the benefits system more user-friendly so that vulnerable people who are in need of help can receive it.
Those with long-term illnesses should have a direct contact point to an advisor, rather than having to queue, sometimes for hours, to speak to a different person and be provided with inconsistent advice.
Reform Jersey opposed cuts to support provided to pensioners by the Social Security Department. We managed to secure the retention of a means-tested Christmas bonus for the poorest pensioners, when the total abolition of the scheme was proposed. Those who have worked hard all of their lives deserve to retire with dignity, and not be seen as a target for government cutbacks.
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