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Struggling mum tearful as States scrap "cruel" income cap on poorest

Struggling mum tearful as States scrap

Thursday 03 November 2022

Struggling mum tearful as States scrap "cruel" income cap on poorest

Thursday 03 November 2022


A hard-working mum who has battled severe financial hardship for years cried tears of relief this afternoon as the States agreed to scrap the benefit limitation which caps the income of the island's poorest larger families.

From 6 January, Chloe and her husband, Luke, and their four school-age children will for the first time receive the weekly income they need to avoid an intolerable standard of living. Chloe and Luke are both in paid employment supplemented by States' income support but the benefit limitation currently caps their total income at an estimated £140 a week – or £600 a month – below their minimum need.

Around two dozen families bringing up more than 100 children will now be able to lift themselves out of conditions of unsparing hardship by keeping their employed earnings and receiving an income support top up to meet their assessed need in full. 

Express told Chloe of the States' decision and a few minutes later she said: "I'm actually in tears right now. I honestly never thought this would happen. This is going to be life changing for me and my family. I am ecstatic right now.

"Not just for me, but it makes me so emotionally happy that other families are going to get that extra help they need. It will be a bit easier for the children of local families who will have that weight off their shoulders." 

On the eve of the States' debate, Chloe shared with Express her family's moving and distressing experience of hardship and the benefit limitation. The full article can be read by clicking HERE.

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Pictured: Chloe told Express that visiting children's play centres like Oaty and Joey's and other local attractions is normally beyond their weekly budget. However, from January, when the benefit limitation is scrapped, she and her husband may be able to afford occasionally to treat their children. Credit: Visit Guernsey.

The States voted in favour of scrapping the benefit limitation by 22 votes to 9.

Deputy Peter Roffey, the President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, who led the reform through the Assembly, told Express that it would be one of the most important moves of the current States' term.

"I am delighted and incredibly relieved to see the nonsensical weekly income limit scrapped because it really was an illogical stain on Guernsey’s social policy," said Deputy Roffey.

"What it did was deprive children born into larger families on low incomes of the basic necessities of life. First, we assessed the cost of the basic basket of food, clothes and so on that they required to avoid being in intolerable poverty, and then told these children that they couldn't actually have these basics simply because they had too many siblings.

"It was a cruel and wrongheaded policy and the spend of £166,000 to lift these children out of poverty is probably the best use of scarce funds that we will see during the whole political term."

Pictured: Michelle Le Clerc was President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security between 2016 and 2020, when the benefit limitation was increased substantially on the way towards today's decision to scrap it from January.

Andrew Le Lievre, who spent most of his working life in senior roles in social welfare before being elected as a Deputy and championing reform and then removal of the benefit limitation, said that today's decision by the States would end a policy which has needlessly damaged larger families for years.

"Deputy Roffey and his team at Employment & Social Security are to be congratulated regarding today's States' decision," said Mr Le Lievre.

"For far too long this arbitrary figure [the benefit limitation] has blighted the lives of islanders with even a relatively small number of children. For those with larger families, it made the job of balancing income and expenditure an impossible task.

"In cases where the need of benefit proved to be long term - say, in cases of serious illness - it resulted in debt, deprivation and extreme hardship for all members of the family.

"Over the years, hundreds of islanders will have been forced to live well short of their actual need - some for weeks, some for months and some even for years. Today, those days are over. This is very good news for larger families with a need of assistance."

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Pictured: Andrew Le Lievre chaired the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee, which in 2016 led the most comprehensive reforms to the island's social welfare system for decades. 

"As a family, when you are in a satisfactory position with funds it is difficult to imagine yourself in a situation where your very foundations are shaken to the core due to an unpredicted and unavoidable change of circumstances which turns your world upside down," said Mr Le Lievre.

"This happens very more often than people think, especially when children are involved. Add in health issues, lowish pay and enforced time off work and you have a perfect storm."

All of the challenges and misfortune listed by Mr Le Lievre were present in the personal story shared with Express by Chloe. 

READ MORE...

Hard-working mum pleads with States to scrap income cap

Benefits boost for poorest families 

Bid to force P&R to work on poverty 

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