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Work permits ‘could help victims of abuse’

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SCRAPPING the two-tier housing and income support system and introducing work permits could help victims of domestic abuse get out of toxic relationships sooner, a States Member has said.

Deputy Montfort Tadier is chairman of the Jersey Human Rights Association

Ministers are to be questioned in the States on Tuesday as to how residency requirements to access income support and social housing may be responsible for some victims staying in abusive relationships.

Deputy Montfort Tadier, the chairman of the Jersey Human Rights Association, is due to ask the questions following an article on the front page of Thursday’s JEP. In it, a police officer and a spokeswoman for the Jersey’s Women’s Refuge said some victims might not be seeking help because of housing and welfare rules.

People who have not lived in the Island for at least five continuous years cannot access income support. Only entitled Islanders – those born here or who have lived here for ten years – can apply for social housing.

It means that some victims in abusive relationships face the prospect of having to live in private rented accommodation funded through often low-paid work in agriculture or hospitality – the main sectors able to employ low-skilled ‘registered’ workers. The matter is further complicated if the victim has a dependent child.

Now, Deputy Tadier has lodged three questions to the Social Security and Housing ministers.

Speaking to the JEP, he said: ‘Residential requirements do more harm than good. If we had work permits, whereby people know they can come to the Island and access everything everyone else can but for a set period, it could help.’

He added that Jersey had, in the wake of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, made a ‘pledge to put children first’. According to Article 26 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should have access to financial support if their parents cannot provide for them. Deputy Tadier said the residency scheme in Jersey could be denying some children support because of where they were from.

‘We have something called hardship grounds where you can apply for entitled status in exceptional circumstances, but it’s very rarely used,’ he added.

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Between 2006 and 2015, 244 people were granted entitled status on the grounds of hardship. Under the Control of Housing and Work Regulations of the Housing Law there is an authority to grant so-called hardship housing consents to people who do not otherwise satisfy the prescribed requirements to be qualified as entitled.

Deputy Tadier is due to ask Social Security Minister Judy Martin if ‘residency requirements to access income support and social housing are responsible for some women staying in abusive relationships? If not, why not? If so, what action will she take?’

He is also due to ask his Reform Jersey colleague Children’s Minister Sam Mézec if residency rules in Jersey mean some children are disadvantaged and if he agrees that Jersey does not currently comply with the UNCRC’s Article 26.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
author

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