The leader of Reform Jersey says he's 'appalled' after the Assistant Housing Minister suggested some islanders are relying on food banks because they aren't managing their finances properly.
It follows reports that the use of food banks in Jersey has risen by nearly 130% over the last two years.
During Monday's States sitting, Deputy Jeremy Maçon asked if the Chief Minister considered a lack of financial management may be a factor in food bank usage increasing, as well as not having enough income:
"Does the Chief Minister agree that individuals accessing food banks can be done for various factors, not having [sufficient] income is one of them, but also not being able to manage their finances might also be another reason as to why individuals need to access food banks in Jersey?"
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, says that was a reasonable assumption.
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, joined the States sitting from his office at Broad Street
He also insisted that Jersey's current welfare system does provide a sufficient 'safety net' for islanders on low incomes.
Senator Sam Mézec says that is staggering:
"I was appalled in the States Assembly sitting earlier today when a member of the government basically suggested that the rise in the use of food banks in Jersey was partly down to people just not managing their personal finances properly... rather than a failure of our public services to provide a decent safety net for people who fall on hard times, or an economy where people get paid a decent amount to live on."
Senator Sam Mézec in the States Chamber
"I would remind them that a homelessness charity recently reported that a majority of the people they were supporting were in full-time employment. But the government [has] insisted on setting the minimum wage at a rate which is actually below the poverty line."
The Chief Minister accused Senator Mézec of 'playing for headlines' and insisted that States Members have to understand the background to the issue:
"We do have a good income support system, that is probably more accessible than the equivalent which is in place in the UK as they don't need to be referred by Citizen's Advice.
"We also need to accept that on the island, we have a fantastic community, voluntary and honorary set of systems which do provide services in a different way."