Friday 9th September 2016
3. CHAIRMAN’S FOREWORD
Deputy Richard Renouf
Jersey rightly takes pride in the quality of life and standard of living it can offer its citizens. But there is a group of residents who are often forgotten in Island life. They are the ones left with little or no disposable income at the end of a working week; whose finances are so finely balanced that any disruption to income flow can have traumatic effects upon their lives; and where unplanned events such as illness, work lay-offs, job losses and relationship breakdown only add impossible financial strains to already stressful situations.
In October 2015 the States Assembly approved plans to remove £10 million from the Social Security budget. Income Support benefit was most affected. However just a few weeks later a five-yearly survey on household income starkly revealed that the income gap between the richest and poorest sections of Jersey society had widened significantly since 2009. One is left to wonder whether decisions might have been made on a more informed basis if the survey findings had been known at the time of the debate.
In the light of all this, my Panel decided to carry out a review to investigate the impact of living on a low income in Jersey. We have been alarmed and saddened but not altogether surprised by what we have learned.
We can surely measure ourselves as a society by the way we look after the poorest, most needy and most vulnerable amongst us. The States Strategic Plan for 2015 - 2018 acknowledges that nothing undermines social inclusion more than financial hardship and has as a stated goal "to help people in Jersey achieve and maintain financial independence and safeguard the most vulnerable in our community".
My Panel hopes its report will help to inform and highlight the difficulties faced by the sizeable number of people living on a low income in Jersey so that States Members and the whole Island community can redouble their efforts to achieve the Strategic Plan goal. The task is huge; it will not be easy to meet this challenge; but dare we hope that the next household income survey (due in 2020) will show a narrowing of the gap between the Island's rich and poor?
On behalf of my Panel, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the Panel's review, either orally or in writing; to the charitable organisations that have welcomed us to their premises and shown us their work; to our adviser for her detailed analysis and guidance; and to our Scrutiny Officers for their hard work and support throughout this review.