TG concerned about changes to Community Care
Together Gibraltar has said it is “alarmed” at changes to the eligibility criteria of Gibraltar Community Care’s ‘community officer scheme’, with the party highlighting “incongruences” in the way in which the decision was taken.
This comes after the directors of the charity explained that they were implementing changes to the scheme to ensure that payments target those who most need them.
In doing so the charity will revert back to the system used when it was first established.
But in a statement yesterday Together Gibraltar highlighted what it described as “incongruences” in the way this decision was executed.
It said: “Firstly, there is the status of the GCC Ltd charity, a private entity whose decisions are tantamount to changes in pension policy.”
The party asked, if these are pension policy changes, why the Gibraltar Government did not seek a mandate for these “significant changes” at the last election.
“Why is it sprung on the community four months after being re-elected? Why did the Government wait until the night their victory was proclaimed to announce that the ‘era of entitlement’ had ended?” TG said in a statement.
The party pointed to what it said was a discrepancy between the “very reasonable” example used to justify this change – that people with large pensions were benefiting from a payment designed to help those in need - and the practical changes it will bring.
“The statement from GCC Ltd highlights the unfairness of affording recipients of ‘six figure pensions’ the benefits of the community officers scheme, yet maintains the threshold - residents earning less than £15,000, with reduced provision for those earning between £15,000 and £21,800 - as originally drafted,” TG said.
“For those with pensions marginally above these thresholds, whose income is nowhere near six figures, this change will have a significant and completely unforeseen impact.”
“Considering this threshold has been set at £15,000 for several years now, would it not have been wise to revise this threshold?”
“Judging by this measure, it seems that the previous eligibility criteria allowed for the ‘unfair’ use of millions of Community Care funds for many years, under the auspices of a charity.”
The party asked if the charity had put a value on the impact of this “unfair” use.
It added: “Considering these rules have applied for years, why has the Government or GCC Ltd not called it out sooner? With £25 million budgeted as a contribution in 2019 and further State Aid from the European Commission, it is noted that in excess of £80 million will also be potentially paid to GCC Ltd.”
“With Sir Joe Bossano already previously commenting on the fund’s increasing costs, this raises our concerns over the effectiveness of the charity in meeting its objectives and obligations to the general public to be equal and fair.”
Together Gibraltar also urged the charity to thoroughly review the pension provisions already available to both genders under the Social Security Legislation.
“Clear measures must be taken by both the charity and Minister for Equality to finally address the gender pension disparities; from the general gender disparity between men and women in terms of eligibility for their pension (age 65 and 60 respectively) to the unfair and unequal allocation of pension proportion to divorced women,” it said.
“The Divorced Women’s Pension Group has been misled by the current government since 2011 while expected to survive on pensions as little as £130 a month.”
In its statement Together Gibraltar also put a spotlight on the “plight” of the Private Sector Workers and Pensioners association, some of whose members are living in extremely precarious conditions.
“This group, made of old age pensioners who contributed dutifully to the common pot, has been unfairly estranged from the prosperity that this community enjoys,” the party said.
“They have been repeatedly ignored, misled and on occasions lied to by successive governments. These pensioners need fair and decisive action now. Together Gibraltar urges GCC Ltd to have due care and consideration to our senior citizens' needs, and to ensure a financially smooth transition for individuals on lower income brackets who will be the hardest hit by the criteria under review.”
Together Gibraltar said it believes the community owes a debt to its senior citizens who have built the Gibraltar we have today.
The party believes that everyone should have an equal right of access to a dignified and liveable pension plan.