‘Social Security system is inadequate and out of date’, says Anti-Poverty coalition.

‘We say it unequivocally: there is poverty in Gibraltar. And there are too many affected by income levels which, under recognised formulas, qualify as being below relative poverty guidelines. It’s a scandal that we continue to put up with this under any circumstances, but especially in the midst of world-level high GDP’s here in Gibraltar.

‘We’re not going to stand by passive and isolated any more. This coming Tuesday 7th May at 3pm we will be taking a first step by making ourselves known openly and publicly outside No. 6 and handing our demands to Government to begin combating an inadequate and out-of-date Social Security system whose reform is long overdue,’ a spokesperson for umbrella group ‘Action on Poverty (AOP)’ stated today.

‘Joining the initiative of Equality Rights Group, Unite the Union’s Community Branch, the Private Sector Workers & Pensioners Association, the Divorced Women’s Group, and the Unite Equalities Committee have formed a coalition under the umbrella of ‘Action on Poverty’, in order to take forward the community’s demands.  And we remain open to other sectors wishing to develop the programme.

‘Our core demands are clear:

1.A root and branch modernisation of the Social Security system by consolidating the many piecemeal statutes currently in place under one piece of legislation.

2. Reorientation of Social Security towards entitlements in law, rather than overwhelming dependence on discretion exercised by politicians and officials. The suspicion of arbitrariness that accompanies non-statutory discretionary decisions must be eliminated.

3. A Social Security framework of benefits that bears a realistic relation to living with dignity in the Gibraltar of today. In a wealthy GDP society like Gibraltar, noone should fall below the poverty line at any time.

4. An end to the secrecy surrounding the whole system with openly published details of all benefits. No more being taken for a ride around the maze.

5.The adoption by Government of formal Poverty Lines based on acknowledged international measures below which individuals in Gibraltar will not be permitted to fall.

6. The satisfactory addressing of long-standing discrepancies for private sector pensioners, workers and divorced women.

7.The publication each year of a report on Households Below Average Income (HBAI’s) as a check to maintaining decent living standards for all.

8.A complete re-think of the presently unfriendly and oftentimes intimidating design of Social Security offices. Reforming the space reforms behaviour, and this can only be of benefit for both civil servants and public.

‘Private sector workers and pensioners, who have spent so long talking to Government but got nowhere, divorced women, the short- and long-term unemployed, the disabled, or any one of the many other categories affected by income disparities in a weak and uneven system that is only designed to patch up after the fact of hardship deserve much better, and it’s time politicians caught up with realities. Social Security must not be about charity and handouts, but about prevention and protection. It must be grounded in people’s statutory responsibilities, rights and entitlements for everyone, not hidden ‘discretionary’ payments that are all too easily open to uneven application at best.

‘Whilst we cautiously welcome Government’s latest announcement to move on legislation to facilitate private sector pensions, this represents only a small fraction of the overall problem of poverty and the role that the Social Security system plays in failing citizens. We need to be more responsive to the needs of a good number of people suffering in silence in our midst,’ AOP went on to say.

‘This coalition is only just starting. We shall be closely watching the political Parties and taking account of both their actions and inactions and shall respond in accordance while we continue to build,’ the statement closed.