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Czech Labor Ministry responds to misleading article about welfare

Prague, 27.2.2014 19:37, (ROMEA)
Jindřich Ginter, a staff writer with the Czech daily Právo (Collage: Romea.cz)
Jindřich Ginter, a staff writer with the Czech daily Právo (Collage: Romea.cz)

The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Labor Office have issued a correction today to the inaccurate information reported by the daily Právo in an article about welfare written by staff writer Jiří Ginter. In addition to other claims, Ginter stated that the state has practically given up monitoring whether welfare is disbursed to suitable candidates. 

Ginter is infamous for his repeatedly anti-Romani, manipulative articles. For example, in an April 2012 article entitled "Welfare being abused even by wealthy Romani families", he collectively charged all Roma with committing illegal behavior without giving any proper quotes or corroborating evidence for such charges, instead making blanket references to "residents of Ústí nad Labem" as his sources. 

A deputy editor at Právo then asked Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, to author a commentary responding to the article, but the daily ultimately refused to publish what Mr Šimáček submitted. News server Romea.cz publishes the press release from the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Labor Office about Ginter's latest reporting in full translation below: 

Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and Labor Office fighting welfare abuse

Welfare should be only be given to those who genuinely need it. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Ministerstvo práce a sociálních věcí - MPSV) and the Labor Office of the Czech Republic (Úřad práce ČR - ÚP ČR) are doing their best to prevent the state housing subsidy from being abused by some operators of residential hotels.  

For example, an amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress is being drafted which should help this effort. "We want to stop the trafficking in poverty that consists of overpriced residential hotels being rented through the use of housing subsidies. We are intensively working on a proposal for new measures in this regard and drafting an amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress," says Labor and Social Affairs Ministry Michaela Marksová.    

"We are also planning, in collaboration with the Regional Development Ministry, to propose and see adopted a law on social housing that will define what a standard social apartment is and who can claim one after meeting the established conditions," the minister said. The ministry also intends to enhance social work in the field at the town and village level and to further develop the cooperation already underway with the nonprofit sector in socially excluded localities.  

The MPSV and the ÚP ČR disagree with the claims made in an article in the Právo daily on 26 February 2014 that "the state has practically given up monitoring whether welfare is disbursed to suitable candidates." The ÚP ČR does perform needs testing of those who receive welfare through the system of aid to those in material distress.

"Even though the Labor Office of the Czech Republic is understaffed, we are doing our best to stop welfare abuse to the greatest possible extent. In this respect our collaboration with municipal and state police forces has proved invaluable. We have succeeded in identifying cases of welfare abuse in practically every region. In several cases a court has already convicted the perpetrators and sentenced them to either prison time or probation. We have not given up on monitoring this and we are doing our best to compensate for the lack of our own capacities by cooperating with other agencies," said Marie Bílková, Director-General of the ÚP ČR.   

The information reported in the article that "welfare is raked in only by drug traffickers, since the drug dealer takes it [from recipients] right in front of the office" is also unlikely. Such a practice is simply not possible because the monies regularly disbursed by the ÚP ČR to its clients are not disbursed in cash at a counter, but are sent to their bank accounts or through postal money orders.  

Welfare recipients, therefore, do not leave a local Labor Office with cash that a drug dealer might immediately take from them. It is true that at the start of the month, a larger than average number of people come to their local contact office of the ÚP ČR. 

The reason for this is simple:  These people must regularly provide background documentation and confirmation of their incomes, which the local office uses to verify whether they still qualify for welfare through the system for aid to those in material distress. Welfare applicants must document to us whether their financial and social situations have changed or not.  

Should a person meet the conditions for disbursal of this or any other kind of welfare, the ÚP ČR disburses it within the time frame established by law. It is never distributed with any kind of delay.  

Problems with lines at local Labor Offices are probably occurring because each local workplace was originally designed only to serve as a place to provide employment services. When the agenda for welfare disbursal was moved from the municipalities to the ÚP ČR, however, the number of clients visiting local Labor Offices rapidly grew, transforming the demands placed on these workplaces with respect to their design and equipment.    

One way to improve this whole situation is to enhance overall financial literacy among the population. We must teach people how to manage their money efficiently. 

Not only are many nonprofit organizations focusing on this, but municipalities themselves are as well. Staffs of local governments are offering people a helping hand with financial issues through community plans and social inclusion programs.

bau, MPSV, ÚP ČR, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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MPSV, nekorektnost, Romové, Sociální dávky, Labor Office



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