A delay to Guernsey's cancer compensation scheme has been described as "unnecessary, destructive and cruel" by one of the island's politicians.
Last year politicians agreed to set up a compensation scheme for people with mesothelioma – an asbestos-related cancer, to which there is no cure.
It was estimated the initiative would cost the States £100,000 a year and was scheduled to start in 2021. But the Policy and Resources Committee is seeking to delay the scheme, stating it supports the principle but not the timing.
Deputies Jonathan Le Tocq and Jane Stephens have placed a motion to put the scheme on hold so it can be considered ‘in context with other funding priorities in the post-Covid era’.
The motion states that since the principle was agreed last year and the policy letter was prepared in the first quarter of this year "the States’ financial position has been significantly affected by the impact of the pandemic".
Undoubtedly, there will also continue to be an impact on the States’ financial position in future years as the global and local economic climate recovers and income receipts are restored. There will need to be a fundamental examination of all States expenditure and re-shaping of the delivery of public services to ensure that services are prioritised and those delivered are as economic and resilient as possible, with resources focused on priority areas with other services either reduced or ceased.
Deputy Matt Fallaize, who led the campaign, says moves to delay the scheme are ‘indefensible on every level'.
Kicking the compensation scheme into the long grass is unnecessary, destructive and cruel. It would come as a brutal blow to sufferers of mesothelioma and their loves ones.
Deputy Fallaize acknowledges that the Committee is dealing with a difficult situation but says "they have got this very badly wrong".
They should withdraw their sursis and we could all accept it as an unintentional error. If they continue with their sursis it deserves to be savaged in the States next week. I doubt the States will vote to make the mesothelioma compensation scheme an early casualty of the current challenges. Many people will be wondering whether this is the first step on the road to funding the States’ recent borrowing commitments by cutting into essential services and social support schemes, and if it is they won’t want a bar of it. Guernsey should have established a compensation scheme years ago. It is unimaginable that the States should want to delay it any longer. The States should, and I think they will, back the Committee for Employment and Social Security, get the compensation scheme set up and reject this 11th hour proposal to prolong years of inaction in this area.
The issue will be debated in the States next week.