I want to talk this evening about a serious problem in our community, but also about some of the good things. The serious problem is unemployment which is a curse, and the government has been working strenuously with private sector employers over the last 3 years to tackle it.  A number of programmes, including the Advance to Work Scheme for youngsters, have made a difference. Yet if one looks at the figures, there were 1500 individuals registered as actively seeking work at the time of the last elections in 2011, and today that figure is slightly higher at 1580, and twice what it was 5 years ago.

It is a terrible thing to want to work and to be unemployed. It saps your energy, there is no incentive to get out of bed in the morning, and worst of all it undermines your feelings of self-respect and self-worth. From the financial point of view, such a mass of unemployed people is hugely expensive in terms of income support, and a vast untapped resource in the economy. It is a real problem in Jersey and one that we must keep at the forefront of our attention.

What can be done about it? There are no easy answers until the economy returns to growth. The rate of unemployment soared at the time of the financial crisis in 2007 and was exacerbated by the actions of the UK government on LVCR. But Jersey is still a pretty good place to live. The government statistics unit has recently measured us against the Better Life Index of the OECD, the so-called club of rich countries, and we come out in the top half, above France, the UK and Ireland. We know that we live in a safe and beautiful place. The churches and our honorary traditions make this Island a particularly caring environment, even if we could do more for the minority communities.

The government should obviously continue its work programmes but I hope that this effort could spread into the wider community. The National Trust intends to give work to the unemployed in restoring Plémont to nature. Could other organisations and individuals be innovative in thinking of ways in which employment, even temporary or part-time work, can be offered to those who want to get back into the workplace, enjoy social interactions and earn a measure of self-respect? I hope that they can.