The former deputy who led proposals to reduce healthcare costs for children says the changes – which will finally be introduced on Saturday – are a legacy "of a States that put a high priority on social welfare”.
The cost of a GP appointment is being cut to £25 – a reduction of more than 50% for most patients under the age of 18. The cost of visiting a nurse at a GP practice is being cut to £15. All children will be entitled to a free dental check-up every year. And the cost of a child visiting the Emergency Department at the Hospital is being reduced to £25.
The changes are expected to cost around £1.7million a year. They will be funded by reducing Family Allowance costs – mainly cutting Family Allowance altogether for households with an income of at least £120,000 a year and also stopping payments at the age of 18.
The changes were led through the States in August last year by former Deputy Michelle Le Clerc when she was President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security. The idea was originally proposed in an amendment taken to the States in 2015 by former Deputy Mark Dorey.
Pictured: At the last meeting of the previous States, Michelle Le Clerc persuaded members to back additional investment in children's healthcare and education of nearly £2million a year and funding it by cutting Family Allowance payments to high-income households.
“This was an important piece of collaborative work for the previous Committee working with the Committees for Health & Social Care and Education, Sport & Culture to bring a joint policy paper,” said Mrs Le Clerc.
“During my time as President of the Committee, I was proud to be part of a States that put a high priority on social welfare, seeking to re-direct some universal benefits towards those affected by health poverty on our island.”
Mrs Le Clerc said the proposals she led on behalf of three committees were “part of addressing in-work poverty experienced by many families with children as well as contributing towards the Children and Young People’s Plan".
The changes were opposed in the States by a majority of the then Policy & Resources Committee, including Deputy Al Brouard, who voted against them. In this States’ term, Deputy Brouard is President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, and he is now welcoming the changes.
“We’re really pleased that the subsidised appointments for children will shortly be in place,” said Deputy Brouard.
“Income can be a barrier to accessing health services. Hopefully, by reducing the barrier, we can make healthcare more affordable, particularly for those with children and young people.”
Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard voted against proposals to reallocate family allowance expenditure when he was a member of the Policy & Resources Committee, but as President of the Committee for Health & Social Care he is "really pleased" that the reallocated funds will shortly cut the costs of primary healthcare for children.
The costs no longer met by patients will be made up by the States, which means there will be no loss of income to GP surgeries and dental practices.
The island’s three private primary care providers – Healthcare Group, Island Health and Queen’s Road – are welcoming the changes ahead of their introduction at the weekend.
“Primary care is happy to work with the States in their decision to reallocate resources to subsidise the cost of healthcare for this patient group," they said.
"We are reassured that the importance of ensuring quality and equity of service has been maintained whilst introducing the subsidy.
"We broadly welcome any initiative which seeks to allocate resources directly to patients to help with healthcare costs whilst recognising the need for any such allocation to be balanced against the global healthcare budget for the Committee for Health & Social Care and the States of Guernsey.”
Pictured: As part of the reallocation of family allowance, around £150,000 a year will also be invested in extending enrichment opportunities for younger children.
Mrs Le Clerc said that significantly reducing healthcare costs for children was part of a suite of social policy advancements agreed by the previous States.
“The introduction of free under-21 contraception which reduced teenage pregnancies by 75% was another area of social policy of which I was proud to be a part,” she said.
“Even though I am no longer involved from a political perspective, I keep a close eye on social policy developments.
“I will be keen to see the next Indicators of Poverty report, which was due in November, to see if we are really making progress in reducing poverty and income inequality in Guernsey.”
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.