Hartz IV ruling sparks jump in welfare applications

DDP/The Local
DDP/The Local - [email protected] • 16 Feb, 2010 Updated Tue 16 Feb 2010 08:44 CEST
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Job centres in Germany have been flooded by applications for welfare payments following a Constitutional Court ruling that could pave the way for Hartz IV benefits to be raised, daily Bild reported Tuesday.

In a development that is likely to stoke the already heated debate about the generosity – or otherwise – of the Hartz IV system, the head of the Federal Employment Office, Heinrich Alt, has told the paper people were coming in seeking payments that had to be summarily rejected.

“Following the Hartz IV ruling, we are being overwhelmed by applications for certain benefits,” he said. “We have to dismiss many of (the applicants), as they are for most part in no particular hardship.

''The Constitutional Court has determined that it’s not about a broken washing machine but rather about serious individual cases, such as a particular illness, for which the health insurance fund isn’t paying.”

Alt’s comments follow days of heated debate on the issue – largely centred around Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle’s fiery rhetoric about what he perceives as the generosity of the nation’s welfare system.

Among other things, he has claimed workers were fast becoming the nation’s “suckers” and said Germany was resembling the “decadent” late-Roman period.

Tension is mounting in the coalition government of Westerwelle’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

On Monday, CDU general secretary Hermann Gröhe joined the chorus of commentators urging Westerwelle to tone down his angry remarks, saying “dubious generalizations and sharp tones” were only hampering a debate on Hartz IV.

“This is not the tone of a (mainstream) party,” he said.

Bavarian Social Affairs Minister Christine Haderthauer joined the criticism, saying Westerwelle had showed “his helplessness.”

“People who have no constructive ideas prefer to bluster. I have heard nothing from the FDP on this issue that is moving us forward.”

So far, Westerwelle has shown scant sign he is prepared to temper his remarks.

Last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Hartz IV system of unemployment benefits was essentially unconstitutional – a decision that could lead to a hike in payments.

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