Jersey government announces plans for more free childcare and cheaper GP appointments

Jersey's Chief Minister says the government wants to go "back to basics" and focus on the "key actions that will address the challenges islanders are facing". Credit: ITV Channel

It could soon cost less for GP appointments and childcare may be free for more parents under plans from Jersey's government.

It wants to prioritise measures that help with the high cost of living, while the long-running saga around building a new hospital and creating more affordable housing also remain key priorities.

Twelve targets have been announced by the Council of Ministers as part of The Common Strategic Policy covering 2024 to 2026.

Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham says: "It's not meant to be revolutionary, it focuses on business as usual but what we have done is set out 12 key actions, actions that will address the challenges islanders are facing."

Deputy Farnham adds his "absolute top priority" will be to start building the new hospital at Overdale after many years of failed proposals and discussions.

He hopes that a planning application will be submitted in the coming months with a decision by the end of this year and construction can begin in 2025.

The plan will also see free nursery places extended for two and three-year-olds, initially for children with additional needs.

Deputy Farnham wants this to be rolled out to cover all children by the end of the current political term in 2026.

The Chief Minister explains: "We have to ensure we implement it in line with the resources available in nursery care for those age groups.

"We don't have enough resources at the moment to introduce it universally immediately, that is why it is going to be introduced in stages because, at the same time, we are going to be working with the sector to increase nursery places."

The Council of Ministers aims to introduce hot meals to all state schools by the end of the year as Deputy Farnham says, "the previous government succeeded in introducing a pilot scheme but now it relies on us to roll it out to the rest of the States' primary schools".

An overhaul of the island's planning system has also been highlighted with hopes that it can be streamlined to allow smaller works to go ahead without permission being needed - although Deputy Farnham admits that it will take three to five years to reach the place they want to be in.

Other government priorities outlined in the plan include:

  • Households - Moving to a living wage, reducing GP costs, and keeping Government fees, duties and charges as low as possible.

  • Families - Making school meals available in all States' primary schools and extending nursery and childcare.

  • Patients and care providers - Delivering improvements to health services including beginning the construction of Overdale Hospital.

  • Homes - Providing more affordable homes and a new licensing scheme for rented accommodation, introducing a Residential Tenancy Law to improve agreements for tenants and landlords and to review the social rents policy.

  • Business - Focussing on skills development, improving the planning processes and building on Jersey's reputation as a stable place for businesses.

  • Community - Delivering a plan to revitalise St Helier and introducing measures to adopt the recommendations of the Violence Against Women and Girls Taskforce report.

Deputy Farnham says the plans are "sensible, practical solutions that can be delivered during this term of office, whilst maintaining sound public finances and preventing unnecessary expenditure.

"This includes curbing the growth in the public sector and redirecting monies saved to areas where it is needed most."

The policy will be debated by the States Assembly on Tuesday 21 May.

Deputy Farnham's whole political philosophy is based around the idea that the government in Jersey does too much, he says he wants them to go "back to basics".

This somewhat slim document, only 16 pages in all, shows what he and the Council of Ministers feel really matters in their short term in office.

Nevertheless, there are important announcements such as the intention to extend nursery and childcare provision and plans to increase subsidies for GP visits.

By the end of their term in 2026, they also say ground will be broken on the new Overdale hospital.

And there is a significant focus on reinvigorating the town and housing, which many around the top table see as being core to the island's issues.

But some of this is old policy, like the introduction of a living wage and the commitment to provide meals in state primary schools by the end of the year.

They were both areas the previous government committed to change but struggled with the practicalities.

Many of those now in government were critical of the previous administration.

They have laid out their wishlist but will be judged on whether they can deliver.

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