Action on Poverty ‘shocked’ at Chief Minister’s ‘closed mind’

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In a statement today, Action on Poverty, the umbrella group comprising the Private Sector Pensioners & Workers Association, Unite the Union, and Equality Rights Group which is campaigning against the existence of poverty in Gibraltar and for a reform of the Social Security system, has stated that ‘following a recent meeting arranged by AOP between the Private Sector Pensioners and Workers Association and the Chief Minister, we are more determined than ever to continue our demands for a fairer distribution of wealth and a thorough reform of the out-of-date and ineffective Social Security system currently in place. The gap between the well-off and the vulnerable is starting to shock us.’

‘We are negatively surprised to find a Chief Minister who refuses to listen to the reality around him, and has closed his mind and ears to the need to avoid poverty in our midst,’ a spokesperson added. ‘Indeed, such is the case that we ourselves took the unprecedented step of ending a meeting that was, to all intents and purposes, unsympathetic, lacking in sensitivity to the less favoured in our society, and a thousand miles from being responsive and responsible towards the most vulnerable in our society. This, at a time when he himself is expecting a substantial budget surplus in the coming financial year, a surplus that gives government room to settle injustices.’

‘The Private Sector Pensioners and Workers Association is not demanding hand-outs. It is not demanding privileged treatment. It fully recognises that means-testing claims can be a fair approach to Social Security. But we consider it reasonable for the elderly, and especially those who have a less dignified existence in our community, to be listened to not just be met in a brick wall of preconceptions by Government, and for it to ‘man up’ and admit the existence of poverty in our midst. That admission would not be failure. Instead, it would be the sign that the Administration deserves our trust in a climate where the rich are getting richer and room for the less well-off in our society is getting scarcer and scarcer. While fiscal and other facilities of varying kinds are being doled out to the more fortunate among us, the vulnerable, it appears, are being increasingly uninvited to the feast.

‘For its part, Action on Poverty will step up its work to highlight the needs and demands of the less well-off in our society in an environment where, the evidence before our eyes suggests, they are able to occupy less and less time and space on government agendas. We invite Mr. Picardo to adopt a more understanding and open attitude,’ the statement ended.