Government Press Release on Disability Allowance is personalised nonsense say the Opposition

Update
Government Press Release on Disability Allowance is personalised nonsense say the Opposition

Date : 
14/08/12

Ref   : 
104/2012


Government Press Release on Disability Allowance is personalised nonsense say the Opposition


The Government, in its now overly aggressive personalised style that has become its hallmark despite promising the electorate to change the way politics is done, claim that Mr. Netto (the Opposition Spokesperson for Disability) does not know how the Disability Allowance works when applied to disabled person in employment despite having been the ex-Minister for Social Services and that the decision to allow disabled people to benefit from Disability Allowance whilst in employment, was a manifesto commitment and not the consequence of the Opposition doing its job in Parliament. This is patently not correct, and the Minister responsible for the response should read his or her own manifesto carefully and brief themselves properly before making such claims.

The Government in their press release say ‘a cursory reading of page 82 of the Government’s manifesto would have served Mr. Netto from claiming a Government initiative as his own’. Page 82, of the Government manifesto states that ‘when disabled people in receipt of the disability allowance start work the allowance will be withdrawn on a staggered basis’. What this means in plain English is that the policy of the GSLP/Liberal party was to withdraw the allowance once in employment by reducing the amount over a period of time. This policy was clearly reflected in the DSS letter sent to the 21 disabled persons already in employment when the GSLP were elected into Government. It is what prompted Mr Netto’s intervention in the first place.

In fact, the current Administrative scheme applied to disabled persons in employment was originally implemented by The Hon. Joe Bossano whilst he was Chief Minister in the early 1990s when he transferred Statutory Benefits to Administrative ones with minor amendments thereafter. Under those original Administrative arrangements the policy was to remove Disability Allowance once the disabled person obtained employment which is what the GSLP manifesto said they would do, albeit on a staggered basis. Despite those administrative arrangements, the GSD Government did not as a matter of policy remove Disability Allowance from people in employment when Mr Netto was Minister. Indeed, on the few occasions that Civil Servant brought this matter up to his notice he took a policy decision not to remove the Disability Allowance on the basis that most disabled persons need a number of services or equipment which are not needed by most other people.

The facts of the matter are that the Government issued instructions to staff in the DSS to issue letters to disabled persons in employment notifying them that the Disability Allowance would be withdrawn. As a result of this, the Opposition Spokesperson Mr. Netto brought the matter for Questions in Parliament highlighting that great care should be taken in withdrawing the allowance as this could bring hardship to some of those disabled person who could be out of pocket as a result of the decision. Indeed, those on sheltered employment schemes would have actually been in a worse off situation financially under this Government despite the Future Job Strategy wage increase, because under the GSD Government they received £450 net of tax plus the Disability Allowance, whereas after the change of policy post the election, they received the minimum wage which was then taxed.

This is clearly seen in Hansard, in answer to Question No. 248, when Mr. Bossano states, ‘Hon. J J Bossano: Yes Mr Speaker, I will certainly pass on his ideas and suggestions, so that the Department could see how they can give effect to what he thinks can be more helpful now. I am going to inform any suggestions that he has that there will be a benefit to those concerned.
All I want to say is that, in fact, there are more than 16 people in the category – the 16 people were the people who are getting before either £450 because they were officially in a full time job or in full time
training, as it was called then, or the £225 because they were supposedly working only 2 or 3 hours. So those are the 16, and those are the ones that are being replaced by either £912 or £456, which are the new rates.
All that we have done is to make sure, following his intervention last time, that those people are not finishing up worse off, when we intended was to better them. But I take on board his additional suggestions and I will certainly pass them on to the Department.

The Opposition welcomes the Government change of policy as this is in the interest of disabled persons. However, it is regrettable how after just eight months the Government believes that it never gets things wrong and how high handed, aggressive and arrogant their interventions both inside and outside Parliament have become. So much for a new dawn in how politics are to be conducted in Gibraltar.

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Government Press Release on Disability Allowance is personalised nonsense say the Opposition

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