Monday, 12 April 2010

Minutes of AMOS GROUP

Minutes of AMOS GROUP of  CHRISTIANS TOGETHER IN  JERSEY on Wed. April 7th at 5.15 at  St. Thomas

1.   Opening prayer on Easter hope led by Adrian Pearce

2.   Income Support Scrutiny panel have held meetings with Age Concern and St Clement Senior citizens.  Also held two stalls on Saturdays in the precinct.  Lots of questionnaires filled in and entered on computer for analysis. St Clement Welfare support team with one paid officer and  a team of volunteers give a real human face to income support.  Much work now needed to have the report available by end of June.

3.     Response to Island Plan consultation.   ELeQ had put in a late submission about the general tone rather than point by point analysis of what is a £25 document, which he declined to buy.  See below

4.     Response to Long term care consultation.  Again made submission so that those who could afford more made a bigger contribution.  See below

5.     CAP, Christians against poverty, is a group that started in Bradford some years ago and has a vision of a debt counselling centre in every town in Britain by 2020.   Martyn Shea has money for 5 people to attend a course in Bristol on Sat. May 15th to be trained in giving advice for money matters.   Does anyone want to take up this challenge?   See  for more details.   Adrian suggested church treasurers might be suitable candidates for this post and will ask the treasurer at St. Lukes

6.   Jersey Link.   Work on the  Summer edition continues, including a look at websites, a report on Street pastors, on Mission Africa, on Cardinal Newman etc.    Items of news always welcome.   We are still uncertain who will take over as JEP link from Ron Felton.

7.   The book  "Deep economics' makes an excellent case for an economics that is much more local and personal.  The author Bill McKibben comes from Vermont in the USA.    A book by Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh explains the creation of social business.  He founded the Grammen Bank, which launched the idea of microcredit and won him the Nobel Peace prize.   This new idea has led to the creation of a yoghurt that is very healthy for young children just being weaned.  It is sold at low price in recyclable cups ( and soon he hopes edible !)    It is a business that runs in a sustainable fashion without regular inputs of aid and is aimed at clear social goals.    He worked with a French multinational that helped to design micro size plants that worked in Bangladesh conditions.  The title is "Creating a world without poverty'.    He is well worth reading.  It is capitalism with human aims that people feel excited to work for.  Perhaps it is rather like the Divine chocolate story.

8.   Stephen Izatt of WEB (Waterfront Enterprise Board) has agreed to come and speak on Wed. May 19th  It should be interesting to hear about WEB.  He will be bringing a PowerPoint presentation.   

9.  Future dates  June 2nd and July 7th both at 5.15. . At one of these we hope that Trish Tumelty will speak about her work with children

10.  The meeting closed with the grace at 6.30

Comments on the Island plan.

I am not putting forward an item by item comment on the proposed plan, but would like to suggest a real change in mindset for Jersey as we are facing a very different world with a rising cost of energy and a growing concern about climate change.

I would like to commend the case put forward by Michael Shuman, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch lecture in February  It was well-summarised by Harry McRandle in the JEP.

It is a real wake-up call for Jersey.  He said that the TINA mindset (There is no alternative)  believes in attracting Toyotas   (i.e. big global companies)
promoting exports  (develop potato exports rather than local food) reassuring locals (big office buildings at the Waterfront and more immigration is what we need!)
my examples in brackets for his 3 points.   An example this month is to promote the case for an extra supermarket in Jersey, which will take more money out of the Jersey economy.

The LOIS mindset (Locally owned, import substitution)  looks forward to the time when oil prices are much higher and self-sufficiency becomes important.  He mentioned the Transition Towns initiative in UK as similar.    In the USA, it goes by the name of BALLE (Business Alliance of Local Living Economies)  gives more details of what looks like a fast growing movement, as the massive amounts invested in mega banks have little effect on the small local economies. In Jersey we have the world's biggest banks, top 500, but can't organise a simple thrift club for ordinary people at St. Martin.

LOIS also has lots of good effects on civil society, with more participation

He listed 6 P's
Planning  - Plug the leaks where money is spent away rather than locally
People  -  Support local entrepreneurs
Partners  - Compete through collaboration between local businesses
Purse -  Harness pensions locally   Our pension contributions could be invested in local enterprises
Purchasing  - Support local campaigns i.e. Think twice, buy local
Policy-making  - Remove the anti-LOIS bias.  Don't keep inviting outside firms

There is leakage from Jersey as mortgage and credit card interest leaves Jersey. There are a variety of ways to encourage local purchases, through coupons or gift cards.   The main message is that public policy should do all it can to build up local businesses. There is much more on his website    but I hope you can see the sense of his approach and its relevance to Jersey.

On the social front, there needs to be a big drive for affordable housing.  This can be partly by building more houses by the Housing Dept and not-for-profit housing trusts rather than private developers.  Action needs to be taken on the Whitehead report.   There should also be an effective rent control tribunal so that people can get an opinion from an independent body about their rent level.

The welcome boost to investment in services for under 5's as shown at the Bridge and with the provision of free nursery places for all for 20 hours in term-time should be extended.   This is an investment which pays back in reduced costs of teenage crime.

We are still waiting for the proposals in the licensing law to be put into law. They would help to reduce the heavy costs to the health service and the police of Jersey's alcohol problem.

The income support system has had some benefits, but has reduced the personal and often non-monetary support provided by parish welfare staff.   This is being rebuilt in St Clement and needs to be in place in other parishes.  Caring services is perhaps an area where young people seeking work could be employed to provide support for elderly people.

Another area where the talents of young people could be used in Overseas Aid.  A spell spent in a developing country would provide a massive boost for young people at relatively low cost.  The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission is reluctant to spend any of its budget locally so it may perhaps have to come from another budget, but a regular supply of young people for 6 month spells abroad would seem to be an investment in people.   The Jersey One World Group are holding a celebration of 40 years of Overseas Aid trips taken by Islanders so it is a well-established system.

So let us think globally but act locally. This slogan applies even more in the coming decade.

Ed Le Quesne
March 2010

Comment on Funding Long-term care

There is a sharp division between those who just have their OAP and those who have a generous occupational pension too.  There is also a big difference between those who reach 65 owning their own homes with no mortgage and those who are sill renting.

In many cases older people are subsidising younger members of their family, rather than being a 'problem'.   Thus people over 65, who have the means to do so, should continue to pay a contribution  to the social security fund, which will be able to help them at 80 or 90 when they will eventually need care.

The burden of funding long-term care should not just fall on people of working age.  Many of the current 60+ generation are the fortunate ones who had subsidised education and lower housing costs when they were younger.

Ed Le Quesne
March 2010

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