Czech Social Minister corrects Labor Office director's claims about welfare abuse
A press release from the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MPSV) issued Monday states that according to the information available from the General Directorate of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic, the degree to which welfare is abused - applied for and received by those who do not qualify - ranges from between five to 10 % of the total volume of disbursals. The situation may vary depending on the region, but the vast majority of welfare makes its way to the right people.
The ministry is drawing attention to this fact after reviewing the media reports that turned up after the broadcast of Sunday's "Questions with Václav Moravec" interview program on Czech Television related to the disbursal of aid to those in material distress. Officials are hoping to prevent possible misinterpretations and erroneous conclusions from being drawn.
Czech Television reported that as much as 60 % of the money designated as aid to those in material distress or housing benefits in a particular region is being misused, but according to all the available information, that report does not correspond to reality. Marie Bílková, General Director of the Labor Office, said the following during the broadcast: "That estimate of five to 10 % is on the low end of the scale. According to my experience in practice - when my colleagues have the opportunity to perform social surveys - the actual numbers are much higher. Abuse is far greater in areas where there are many residential hotels and where there is a high degree of anonymity."
Bílková claimed that in some areas welfare abuse is as high as 60 % and estimated that the town of Karviná is such a case. Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová says that is not true.
"According to all of the available information, the claim broadcast on Czech Television that as much as 60 % of the monies designated as aid to those in material distress or as housing benefits in a particular region is being misused does not correspond to reality. I immediately had the situation in Karviná checked and its numbers are much closer to the state average," Marksová Tominová pointed out on Monday.
The minister insists that current social surveys do not show that the amount of erroneously or incorrectly disbursed aid to those in material distress exceeds the level reported by the Government and the MPSV. According to that data, between five and 10 % of aid to those in material distress might be disbursed in error.
While the situation varies depending on the region, recent social surveys in northern Moravia confirm those numbers. The example of the Karviná district was given by Bílková to illustrate a region where welfare abuse allegedly occurs in more than 50 % of those disbursals.
Specific social surveys of welfare recipients for the month of June 2014 were performed by the Ostrava Regional Branch of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic and the Labor Office Contact Point in Karviná. The audits were performed according to the type of welfare received; for the living allowance (aid to those in material distress), of 106 cases audited, five errors were discovered.
For the housing payments, of 102 persons audited, four errors or suspicions of erroneous disbursal were discovered. For those receiving extraordinary immediate assistance benefits, of the 16 cases audited, only one error was found.
Even though this data does not suggest any large-scale growth in the possible abuse of aid to those in material distress, the MPSV is reviewing the situation around these disbursals in great detail. The Government has already approved a proposed amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress, which will mainly address the situation around residential hotels and the disbursal of housing payments on behalf of their tenants.
A law on social housing is also being designed now. By the end of the year, the Labor Office will be augmented by another 600 new employees who will predominantly work in the field.
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