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GSLP gives ‘full support’ to Community Care, despite TG criticism

Pic: Johnny Bugeja

The GSLP Liberals has said it “fully supports” the directors of the Gibraltar Community Care Limited in their decision to review the way in which the Community Officer Scheme is assessed, however this has received strong criticism from Together Gibraltar.
Together Gibraltar said it is “outraged by the exercise of cynicism and avoidance of responsibility” by the Community Care Directors and the Government, who ultimately provide for the scheme.
TG added individuals receiving Community Officer Scheme payments should not be branded as “abusers of the system”, adding the changes to the system have been “incompetently carried out”
A review of changes to the Community Officer Scheme came under the spotlight last week after the charity said new applicants to the scheme will be means-tested for employment and pension income.
The directors of the charity have rightly identified what is a “potential unfairness” in the manner in which the means test is being applied to a small, defined class of persons, men aged 60 to 65, are registering to receive Community Officer payments, a statement from the GSLP Liberals said.
“The GSLP Liberals fully support the directors in their decision to review the way the Community Officer scheme is working and in finding a new and more equitable way in which to assess eligibility to claim these benefits,” the GSLP Liberals added.
“We support them in ensuring that they are able to continue to discharge their obligations as trustees of this important independent charity and as directors of its underlying operating company in a manner that does not lead to an unfairness which clearly defeats the charitable purpose of Gibraltar Community Care and the objects for which it was established.”
Earlier this week the GSD questioned whether the changes made to the Community Officer Scheme were an indication that the charity’s finances were “being stretched”, and whether the Government has signalled that it will be reducing the level of funding from the public purse in the future.
But the GSLP Liberals said that in 1996 Gibraltar Community Care held £60m in reserves and that by the time the GSD left office in 2011 the reserves of the charity had been reduced to “zero”.
"The reserves of the charity are clearly therefore now much stronger than they ever have been and stronger, more solid and reliable than at any time during the years in which the GSD were in office,” the GSLP Liberals said.
“It is therefore plainly now ridiculous for the GSD to suggest that the trustees of the charity may be having any liquidity problems when their reserves considerably exceed the amounts that they have had in the past.”
The party is calling on people to wait for the outcome of the trustees and directors review and to support the charity in the important work it does in continuing to contribute the Household Cost Allowance to resident pensioners and the continued payments to Community Officers as they have now set out.
“The GSLP Liberals also remind the public that Gibraltar Community Care is an independent charitable trust and that any expectations of it must be calibrated and tempered in that way,” the GSLP Liberals added.
Meanwhile, Together Gibraltar said recipients of the Community Officer Scheme should not be branded as “abusers” of the system, adding that these are citizens who have played by the rules “dictated and designed” by those in charge.
“They received this aid for years, fulfilling their responsibilities, and they cannot be scapegoated in response to the failings of the system,” a statement from Together Gibraltar said.
“If the system has structural problems that require fundamental alterations, it is perfectly logical for these to take place.”
“If it is not sustainable and suffers from funding issues, people have a right to know the detail of these problems.”
Together Gibraltar said that regardless of what the problem is, the changes should be explained thoroughly, executed competently, and the Government should have sought a mandate to what is tantamount to a substantial change in pension policy.
“Crucially, those responsible for devising a flawed and unsustainable system should step up, take their blame and stop branding citizens as ‘abusers’ for their own shortcomings,” Together Gibraltar said.
“This change has been incompetently carried out and ill-communicated.”
“We urge both the Directors of the Trust and the Government to be more forthcoming about changes such as these, that may impact on the livelihoods and welfare of many citizens, put an end to this accusatory tone, and stop avoiding their responsibilities.”

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