Monday, 19 October 2015

Senator Alan Maclean and Senior Citizens

Senator Alan Maclean and Senior Citizens

“We owe a great deal to our senior citizens who made our Island the very special place that we enjoy today.”

“In other societies the senior members of a family are treated like ‘royalty’ and honoured for their wisdom and experience.”

“It is essential that senior citizens are afforded the respect and care that they deserve after years of paying their taxes and contributing to our community.”

“Inflation and especially the rising costs of food and fuel are impacting on retired people living on fixed incomes. We must ensure that help is available and targeted in a fair and dignified manner to those in genuine need.”

“There needs to be a special focus on our senior citizens to understand their needs and ensure that the vulnerable and less well off are supported in a fair and dignified way.”

- Election Manifesto: 2014

Christmas Bonus removed – where the previous Minister for Social Security, Francis Le Gresley, worked out a means of retaining it at a reduced sum, against demands to scrap it, Susie Pinel proposed and succeeded in scrapping it altogether.

Senator Alan Maclean voted for scrapping the bonus. So much for the “respect and care that they deserve after years of paying their taxes and contributing to our community.”

Of course his response would be to say it is not targeted to those in most need – so why not amend the proposition to make it means tested? The failure to do so I think illustrates the hollow nature of his manifesto.

The replacement puts the money back in the pot where it supposedly can be targeted to those most in need, although as there is no detailed chain of cause and effect, I am somewhat suspicious of that. Usually when money goes back "in the pot", that is the last we see of it. Clearly former Senator Le Gresley didn’t see it that way: something direct is always better because you can see it making a difference.

There was an amendment to the Medium Term Plan by Deputy Judy Martin: After the words “as set out in Summary Table C” insert the words “except that the net revenue expenditure of the Chief Minister’s Department and the Treasury and Resources Department should be reduced in 2016 in the sum of £90,000 and £67,000 respectively and the net revenue expenditure of the Social Security Department be increased by £157,000 to fund the continued provision of means-tested free television licences for the over-75s"

Funding for TV Licence for over 75s – which is means tested, only retained by one vote. Whether the Minister, Susie Pinel, honours this is another matter! But means testing means that it is given only to those in genuine need, which is what Senator Maclean wants.

Nevertheless, Senator Maclean voted against this, despite the fact that it clearly fits the remit of help that is “available and targeted in a fair and dignified manner to those in genuine need.”  

In fact, a careful review of his manifesto notes these caveats which abound – help should be “available and targeted”, and it is “the vulnerable and less well off” among the pensions who should be helped. But in this case, the TV licence is means tested, so it is for precisely those people - targetted – and yet he voted against it.

And pensioners have also recently lost Prime Talk, a subsidy that allowed retired people to get a cheaper home phone line. It has been replaced with a new Senior Home Service, which gives a home phone number but over the mobile network, using a special handset. There will also be an increase in call costs as PrimeTalk customers paid 7p for half an hour, the new charge will be 2p/minute.

Alan Maclean’s silence has been deafening on how this affects the elderly. There seems to be little evidence of a “special focus” from him “on our senior citizens to understand their needs”, despite Daphne Minihane, of Age Concern, saying that it is a lifeline, especially for the elderly who are housebound.

Restrictions on free travel for pensioners have been suggested by Transport Minister Eddie Noel.

This has not reached the States yet, but should it, I would lay odds that Senator Maclean would vote in favour, notwithstanding his manifesto enthusiasm for the idea that pensioners should be “treated like ‘royalty’ and honoured”.

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