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York research brings benefits for St Helena

Posted on 26 November 2013

The social security system in one of Britain’s most remote overseas territories is undergoing a partial restructure with the help of academics from the University of York.

Jamestown, Saint Helena. Credit: Mejuto via Creative Commons

The government of St Helena commissioned Professor Jonathan Bradshaw and Professor Roy Sainsbury of the University’s Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) to contribute to a review of the Island’s 2011 social security reforms.

Now, as a result of recommendations developed at York, St Helena residents will, for the first time, have benefits based on minimum income standards, plus a new system of child benefit payments.

As part of the project, Professor Sainsbury visited the island earlier this year, a journey completed by RAF transport aircraft flight to Ascension Island and a three-day 700-mile voyage to St Helena.

Professor Sainsbury said:  “As a result of our recommendations, benefits will be based on the cost of a typical basket of goods which means payments will reflect the actual cost of living on the island.

“Families will also benefit from the new child benefit system – again this is a first for the island and will make a major contribution to alleviating child poverty.”

The benefit reforms have been initiated in advance of the planned construction of a commercial airport, likely to be one of the most significant economic developments in the island’s history.

The work we have done reflects the unique character and economic circumstances of the island and will make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable residents

Professor Roy Sainsbury

St Helena’s population of just over 4,000 is skewed towards older age groups with many younger people leaving to work abroad, placing pressures on the island’s benefits system.

The work carried out by SPRU was overseen by officials from the island’s Health and Social Welfare Directorate. It was managed by Susan O’Bey, Director of Strategic Policy and Planning on St Helena who is currently completing a Masters in Public Policy and Management by distance learning at York.

Professor Sainsbury said: “St Helena is a fascinating island facing social and economic issues caused by its extreme isolation, a declining population and lack of significant natural resources.

“The work we have done reflects the unique character and economic circumstances of the island and will make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable residents.”

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