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‘Action on Poverty’ calls for fair approach to Community Care crisis

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In a public statement, the NGO Action on Poverty (AOP), which was launched in March 2019 to call for major reform of the Social Security system, has revealed that it has ‘been concerned for some time by the developments and tone that have emerged on the question of Community Care, a vital part until now, along with pensions, of retirement planning for many in our community. However, for these very reasons, we have refrained from public comment pending serious consideration and analysis of the issues.

‘It’s no news to say that AOP has been warning about the consequences of failure to commit to a top-down reform of the Gibraltar welfare and benefits system from its outset. Piecemeal responses are short-lived or none at all. Because whether we mention the situation of private sector workers and pensioners, the disabled, the unemployed, or that of citizens supported by community care, the issue is one and the same: the inconsistencies of a social welfare machine that creaks from whichever angle you look at it. This current situation over Community Care comes as no surprise to AOP, nor should it have been unexpected by government or any political party because we have engaged with them all.

‘Increasingly the question is: will this and other future Administrations continue to dodge the job of thoroughly uniting the welfare system into a seamless machine that brings fair and open distribution of support for our people? Serious government cannot afford to do so any more. Ordinary citizens cannot afford to have their lives mortgaged to short-termism. Temporary election-to-election patches are not the solution. The questions that face us cannot be addressed by short 4-year political answers.

‘AOP is therefore sympathetic to the complaints of non-consultation and arbitrariness which the Community Care Action Group, headed by Joseph Capurro, has expressed. There is a reasonable basis in fact, in our view, for their grievance. There was an expectation that was suddenly dashed, bringing disruption to many lives.

‘On the other hand, the task of economic management is a fundamental responsibility of any government; a vital duty of care for the overall good of our society. In these circumstances, confrontation needs to be replaced by listening, just as short-term patches need to be replaced by long-term vision.

‘AOP therefore calls on Government to accede to the Action Group’s request to commence a process of respectful dialogue in order to bring sense to what has become an untenable situation for many.

‘AOP is clear: too many Administrations over too many decades have left us with machinery creaking with inconsistencies, based primarily on hidden decisions, and founded on a framework kept out of sight by the mysterious behind-the-counter ‘discretionary’ criteria on which it’s built. This is far from what was originally intended: Social Security and people’s well-being can no longer be electoral playthings; they must form part of a clear, unfractured and objective structure administered justly without bias, grace or favour, equally to all citizens by civil service professionals and with minimum Administrative intervention.

‘In other words, the house has to be rebuilt and repainted to cope with conditions today. And Community Care is the first, most visible expression of the need,’ the statement concluded.