In July, the GDA attended the Poverty Debate, hosted by the Guernsey Community Foundation. 150 deputies, civil servants, charities, business people and islanders came together to discuss whether there is a poverty problem in Guernsey, led by an expert panel.
The overwhelming consensus was that there is certainly relative poverty in Guernsey, particularly amongst single pensioners, single parents, large families – and disabled people.
One of the panellists was Rachel Copeland, a local Health Visitor. She said she sees families living in conditions in Guernsey that are as bad as the worst estates in the UK – mould, fungus, multiple occupancy, no fire alarms, unsafe stairs, unsafe heating, can’t afford fuel, nowhere for children to play, accidents. She relies on charities to help families to get spectacles repaired or fix the washing machine. Requests for aid from foodbanks are increasing and some people are in eye-watering debt.
Various initiatives were discussed – like helping older people release some of the equity from their house so they had something to live on now. Or bringing in minimum standards for rented accommodation. It was agreed that the States, charities and businesses should work together to tackle poverty but that the States needed to take more of a lead, especially in defining and monitoring the problem.
One final note of direct relevance to the GDA from panel member, Dave Clark. Dave is now Chair of Headway Guernsey and St Johns. However 12 years ago, he was States Treasurer in charge of the island’s finances. He said the reason that money had been allocated to the Corporate Housing Programme to replace the Bouet etc was because the Housing Team had ‘banged on his door every week’ with convincing arguments, conviction and credibility….
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