• September 13, 2015


Some years ago when I was a Union Official on the Isle of Man a young couple turned up in the foyer of Transport House. They were not Union members but they had been denied benefits by the Department of Health and Social Security (as it was then) and they had nowhere else to go. They were homeless (it was the late eighties when homelessness was a problem on the Island) and they both seemed to have emotional problems – with the male threatening on several occasions to commit suicide.

I calmed things down got on the DHSS talked to the relevant people (you could generally access the people at the top then) and sorted their predicament out. The incident was not a one of and over the years people periodically pitched up at our door seeking help because somehow they had slipped through the system.

Knowing the pressures that people who are on benefits face I was really angry when I heard our government this week announce swingeing cuts to what are already piecemeal benefits.

Then I heard the Head of Social Security, Ross Stephens of say on Manx Radio:

“the money we give to the unemployed is the amount that’s required and as has been stated before is at a significant level than in adjacent jurisdictions”

Note the terminology; “the money we give”. Now in the past a person in the position of Mr Stephens would have said “the benefit to which a person is entitled”. Because that’s what unemployment benefit it is an entitlement under Social Security regulations it is not poor relief we ditched that decades ago.

For the avoidance of doubt I’m not criticising Mr Stephens he is just implementing the changes set in train by politicians.

But it is dangerous to compare ourselves to neighbouring jurisdictions even if at present this might seem to cast us in a good light. In neighbouring jurisdictions people are being driven to take their life because of benefit cuts and the most vulnerable are particularly at risk.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind in the UK, said earlier this year:

“We’re very concerned about the impact changes to benefits are having on people with mental health problems, including the number of people having their benefits stopped.” Sanctions cause not just financial problems but “added emotional distress”, he says. Mind has been getting an increasing number of calls from people experiencing suicidal thoughts, and while the causes of suicide are myriad and complex, we know that the reforms being made to benefits are a contributory factor for many people.”

Tom makes a sound point often changes which may seem appropriate to Government can to people living on the edge lead to “added emotional distress” and this can in some instances lead to self harm.

I just hope the Manx Government knows what its doing and the damage it can cause.


Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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