A policy letter submitted by the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee (SWBIC) brings strengthened proposals on the future of social welfare to the States for debate in March.
The States currently provide benefit in two forms. There is the Rent Rebate Scheme, administered by the Housing Department and available to certain social housing tenants, and there is supplementary benefit, administered by the Social Security Department. Each are paid according to a different set of rules, which in some cases leads to social housing tenants and private tenants being treated differently.
If approved, the Committee's proposals will result in the two schemes being replaced by a single Income Support Scheme. The Scheme will operate according to a single set of rules designed to ensure that all households in Guernsey and Alderney can access financial support sufficient to ensure an appropriate standard of living.
Deputy Andrew Le Lievre, Chairperson of the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee said:
"On behalf of the Committee, which includes representatives from Housing, Social Security and the Treasury & Resources Departments, I am pleased to bring the proposal for the new Income Support Scheme to the States for debate."
"I am of the firm view that these proposals provide foundations for future improvements to social welfare, based on one system providing a good basic standard of living for all low income households."
"The Income Support Scheme brings with it the considerable benefit of a more consistent and fair system of assessing people's need for assistance, and making social welfare support available, in an appropriate form, to those that need it.
"The single system will also be flexible and able to adapt in the future, so as to best meet any challenges faced by the States."
Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, Social Security Department representative on the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee said:
"Replacing supplementary benefit and ending the practice of giving rent rebates is one of the key stages in welfare reform work that started in the previous Assembly."
"Overall, we're aiming to provide a social welfare scheme that treats low income individuals fairly and equally whether they are living in social housing, renting in the private sector or living in owner occupied property with a mortgage."
Deputy Mike Hadley, Deputy Minister of the Housing representative on the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee said:
"The Housing Department has long been in favour of merging the Rent Rebate and Supplementary Benefit schemes because operating two schemes side by side is inefficient and can lead to families in private rented accommodation being offered less support than those in social housing."
"The Income Support Scheme being proposed by the Social Welfare Benefits Investigation Committee will do the job of both supplementary benefit and rent rebates, and will do it better. By administering a single means-tested benefit scheme, the States can assist all low income families in a fair and consistent way."
"The Committee's proposals, if approved, will mean that every social housing tenant is charged a full rent. Some will be entitled to help under the new scheme that leaves them better off than they are now. But a minority of tenants, after paying their new rent, will be worse off - even if they get help under the new scheme. Any tenants that lose out will still, however, be able to afford a good standard of living."
"States housing tenants and people on supplementary benefit are being provided with information in advance of the meeting of the States. Staff from the Social Security Department and Housing will be taking calls and talking to tenants to provide as much advice as possible at this early stage."