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‘6500 people at risk of Poverty and social exclusion in Gibraltar,’ says Action on Poverty (AOP)

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‘Action on Poverty (AOP) is seriously concerned at the underlying and growing percentage at risk of poverty and social exclusion (known as ‘AROPE’) which is increasing in sectors of our population in Gibraltar,’ a statement from the organisation has revealed.

‘This is now an acute concern for AOP following the recent economic diagnostics presented by the Chief Minister and the Minister for Economic Development in Parliament during the Budget sessions. There is no doubt they are both signalling grave concern.’

‘While Gibraltar does not have a readily available database of statistical information for public contrast and consultation (the last Gibraltar census is out-dated and does not necessarily address the questions needed to gauge financial hardship and distress in our community), approaches which extrapolate comparative data from close societies such as the UK, Spain and the EU widely, provide pointers which, once contrasted to more limited local survey information, point us in a direction which tallies closely to what is expected in other European territories in 2021. We cannot remain in the dark here on the Rock, and Action on Poverty’s obligation is to highlight issues of concerns to the public.

‘Media and civil society organisations also have to rise to the duty to inform in stressful circumstances such as these.

‘In this respect, AOP notes that the consistently underlying figure of 20-21% of the general population indicated as being ‘at risk’ is highly likely to also apply to Gibraltar. This will come as a shock and surprise to many of us, no doubt. And it is for this reason that AOP Spokesperson Felix Alvarez has written to the Chief Minister urging that the Gibraltar Government undertake a serious data study of the Gibraltar population in respect of risk of poverty outcomes.

‘Given the absence of official statistics on poverty in Gibraltar, and the pressing possibilities for serious effects on sectors of our society, it would be a responsible move for the kind of economic and budgetary measures recently announced by Government to be accompanied by the assistance of the kind of insights that could help us navigate away from the more catastrophic effects on vulnerable parts of our society.

‘Economic management cannot ignore the human effects on those less able to navigate the hardships likely to hit the lower-paid, unemployed, disabled, or pensioners most.

‘Given the outdated and clunky machinery of our present Social Security system, Gibraltar is unlikely to avoid the 20-21% of our population that will find itself at risk of falling into poverty. At a time when the Minister for Housing has been reporting on the difficulties faced with significant and persistent government rental arrears, that means that approximately 6,500-7,000 people are unlikely to be able to safely face payment of loans, mortgages, or government rentals; nor unexpected ‘rainy day’ type costs, or afford a week’s holiday per year, replace outworn clothes or furniture, let alone be able to spend frequently on maintaining a balanced diet.

‘The signs were already in place two years ago that economic downturn had started, and the mass accumulation of government rental arrears in the millions was a strong indicator that brought about the launch of Action on Poverty.

‘We cannot navigate blind any longer. It behoves us to take the risk of hardship, social exclusion and poverty very seriously,’ the press statement closed.