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Hartz IV welfare benefits ruled unconstitutional
Photo: DPA

Hartz IV welfare benefits ruled unconstitutional

Published: 09 Feb 2010 12:06 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Feb 2010 14:23 GMT+01:00

Millions of German families on welfare could receive more government assistance after the nation’s highest court ruled Tuesday the controversial Hartz IV system of payments was unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the payments allotted for 1.7 million children of people on long-term unemployment benefits, introduced in 2005, were not correctly calculated.

Senior government figures quickly promised a review of the system but refused to guarantee payments to children would be raised.

The rate of the payments should be based on whether or not they are sufficient to live according to minimum humane standards, said Hans-Jürgen Papier, the court’s chief justice. But this criterion had not been used.

Therefore, lawmakers had to revise the basis for the payment system by December 31, 2010, the court ruled. The present payments would remain in effect until then.

However, in an important distinction, the court stressed that the payments themselves were “not obviously inadequate” and therefore lawmakers were not obliged to immediately raise them.

The court decided it did not have the authority to set the rate at which Hartz IV should be paid, saying that this was rather the domain of lawmakers.

German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen described the ruling as a “very important decision for the government and for the community,” while refusing to say whether the rate of payments for children would be raised.

It would be “reckless to speculate right now about amounts,” she said.

The decision was in part an indictment on the Hartz IV scheme “but the big winners are children,” von der Leyen said.

The conservative Christian Democrats parliamentary chief, Volker Kauder, vowed a quick reassessment. Kauder told reporters in Berlin a new system had to be determined quickly for children affected. But he also refused to commit to a boost to payments.

The Hartz IV reforms, introduced by the former coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats and environmentalist Greens under then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, consolidated welfare payments into one system for the long-term unemployed and their children, effectively slashing the payments for many recipients.

The court was ruling on previous decisions made by the Federal Social Court and State Social Court in the state of Hesse, to whom families on Hartz IV had lodged claims. Both of these courts had ruled the system was not adequate to ensure the needs of children.

The payments for children are effectively calculated as a percentage of the €359 per month given to unemployed adults – not including rent, which is covered by the government. If the adult lives with a partner, he or she receives 90 percent of that sum, or €323.

Children aged up to five get €215 per month – 60 percent of the adult rate – and children aged six to 13 get €251 – or 70 percent of the adult rate.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:24 February 9, 2010 by majura
"Hartz IV welfare benefits ruled unconstitution" - al.
16:21 February 9, 2010 by Fredfeldman
All this sighing about Hatz IV benefits is becoming boring. There *you* go but for the grace of God. The cold reality is that as we all march into the future and society becomes more automated there will be proportionately less jobs to go around as there are now. Having a good job these days is a privilege, not a right and carries with it the obligation to support the folks who weren't fortunate enough to win the employment lottery. A modern society that ignores that reality has no future.
17:27 February 9, 2010 by michael4096
How cheap is cheap enough?
To hear parents whine about their clothes not looking nice enough does not evoke much sympathy.
"When I was a lad, we 'ad to spend 12 hours down coal mine... before school"

With kids, it's a question of relationships, surely. They must be able to relate to their peers or they end up with a chip on the shoulder that will probably turn sceptic for everybody around. iPlayers are an optional extra unless, literally, everybody has one.

Unfortunately, kids know this even better than most parent and play the game better than anyone. Kids given everything, just start playing the game at the next level. I have experience of this from my nephew and niece.

Hartz, and any other fix, are a success if they allow the parents the ability to screw it up
20:49 February 9, 2010 by tollermann
Conquistador if you don't like the way businesses hire and fire open your own business!
07:19 February 10, 2010 by wenddiver
How about giving the Germans on HARTZ-IV the jobs of all the foreign workers that Germany imports????? If you could put on a Mercedes or BMW that no guest workers were involved that it was made with pride by German labor it would be more appealing, not less appealing in the US.

Americans of German decent have a very good reputation for their work ethic in the US, no reason you couldn't tap into that.
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