21 November 2023
The Minister for Social Security, Deputy Elaine Millar, has formally provided her response to the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel this week, following its review of Income Support Benefit Overpayments.
The Minister is pleased that the Scrutiny Panel has confirmed the fundamental principle that Income Support payments are made in advance, so low-income families are supported quickly when their circumstances require it. Making payments in advance will very often result in some level of overpayment of benefit.
The Income Support system gives financial support to a wide range of Islanders, including care leavers, pensioners, individuals looking for work and individuals who are in work but require additional financial support. The Income Support budget for 2023 is £75.5m and supports over 5,000 households. Benefit payments range from a few pounds a week to over £50,000 per annum for some households.
Minister for Social Security, Deputy Elaine Millar said: "I am grateful for the Panel's work in examining this important area. I respect the role that Scrutiny play in reviewing Government policy and I recognise that this is an emotive area. I can confirm that action is already being taken against the three recommendations that have been accepted. From the recommendations made by the Scrutiny Panel, we are only acting on the ones that we know can make a positive improvement. It's important that we only commit to actions that we know are deliverable and will maintain the fairness and integrity of the benefits system.
"The need to repay benefit only occurs after someone has received more money than they are legally entitled to receive. This means they have had more money in their pocket than other claimants. The principle of requiring the repayment of overpayments ensures fairness among benefit claimants, as well as fairness to the taxpayers who fund Income Support. I ask anyone who is struggling with the repayment of their overpayments to speak to the Income Support team immediately or to contact them if there has been a change in their personal circumstances, which could impact on their benefit payments."