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Ascension Saints deserve a pension, says Lawson

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A call has been made to end discrimination against St Helenians who are denied an island pension because they have spent much of their working life on Ascension.

In a speech at the inaugural meeting of St Helena’s new Legislative Council, Lawson Henry said there was no pension scheme for Saints who worked on Ascension.

He said it was unfair to deny them the Basic Island Pension on St Helena because their work on Ascension contributed strongly to the economy at home.

Lawson, who worked on Ascension himself, said: “As I understand it, one of the criteria is that a person must work on St Helena for a minimum of 20 years.

“This effectively cuts out all those St Helenians who have worked on Ascension for all or most of their working lives.  I strongly believe this is wrong and in some respects unintentionally discriminates against those Saints affected by it.

“I would argue that given the close links between the two islands over many years and the significant contribution that Saints’ working on Ascension and elsewhere for that matter has made and still do to this island’s economy.”

He said that when he was a councillor on Ascension, it was known that “remittances from Ascension to St Helena was over £1 million per annum”.

He said: “This did not take into account monies Saints sent to families through the mail system and hand-carried.

“I would further argue that Saints living on Ascension continue to make a significant contribution to the island; many own their own homes here.

“Up until late Nineties, St Helena benefited from the income derived from fishing licences sold on Ascension.

“Like St Helena there is no national pension scheme on Ascension that Saints can contribute to. They rely on small gratuities paid at end of their working lives.

“I believe, given the close links between the islands and the significant contribution that these Saints have made to our economy over many years, that they should benefit from our Basic Island Pension scheme and that particular criteria must be reviewed to include them.”

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