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Czech Senate rejects bill on subjecting welfare to collections

Prague, 27.10.2011 12:02, (ROMEA)

Left-wing members of the Czech Senate have, as expected, rejected a bill submitted by MPs from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) which would have made it possible to subject welfare to collections, the Czech Press Agency reported yesterday. The bill would also have made it possible for debtors to conclude agreements with the authorities for their welfare to be attached. The Senate's veto may be overturned by the lower house.

Left-wing members of the Czech Senate have, as expected, rejected a bill submitted by MPs from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) which would have made it possible to subject welfare to collections, the Czech Press Agency reported yesterday. The bill would also have made it possible for debtors to conclude agreements with the authorities for their welfare to be attached. The Senate's veto may be overturned by the lower house. Czech Senator Božena Sekaninová, Vice-Chair of the Czech Social Democratic (ČSSD) senators, recommended they reject the bill. In her view, the bill did not take into consideration cases such as those of persons living with diabetes whose illness requires that their subsistence benefts be higher than those of healthy persons in need of social support. According to Czech Senator Miroslav Nenutil (ČSSD), the bill would have introduced inequality before the law, as only the municipalities or the state, not other creditors, would have been permitted to attach people's welfare. Nenutil also pointed out that according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, people in material distress have the right to state assistance to ensure their basic living conditions are provided for.

Czech MP Ivana Řápková (ODS), the former mayor of Chomutov who co-authored the bill, said the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms defines this right as related to the "subsistence" minimum and not the minimum cost of living. In her view, the bill would make it possible to attach all welfare with the exception of the "subsistence" minimum, which since 2009 has been officially defined as CZK 2 020 per month per individual and which she says does not contravene the Charter. Řápková also said the Czech Labor and Social Affairs ministry is planning to raise the "subsistence" minimum. The minimum cost of living is officially defined as CZK 3 126 monthly.

The aim of the bill is to increase the possibilities for municipalities to collect fees and fines from welfare recipients. It responds to the current fact that welfare recipients who are in debt are said to be unable to pay municipal fees and fines. The authors of the bill say welfare recipients' liability for paying such fines and fees should be increased and situations in which they abuse the social welfare system should be prevented. Critics of the bill say it is "illusory" to believe subjecting welfare to collections will force people to live up to such obligations.

Those opposed to the bill say it would result in expanding the circle of people to whom various disadvantageous loans will be offered and approved. Thanks to such an expanded option for collecting subsistence benefits, creditors would have an easier time getting their money. Řápková, however, says such practices are already common. Loan sharks are said to already regularly wait for their debtors outside the public offices where welfare is disbursed in cash in order to collect what is due.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, jr, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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