Czech welfare chauvinists call for abolition of inclusion, renewal of "special schools", and denial of welfare to "inadaptables"
According to the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura, none of the integration programs in the Czech Republic meant to support Romani people work and they are only good for the nonprofit organizations that make a living off of them. The SPD wants to use one standard of measurement for everybody and emphasize that there can be no exceptions when it comes to obeying the law.
That is the message sent to news server Romea.cz by Czech MP Lucie Šafránková (SPD), who responded to our questions instead of the statewide leader of the movement, Tomio Okamura. In Šafránková's view, it is necessary to halt the massive abuse of welfare by those she calls "inadpatables".
Šafránková said that in most cases, the inhabitants of socially excluded localities will survive on welfare for as long as possible and do not want to change anything about their circumstances. In the arena of education, the SPD wants to abolish inclusion and renew what used to be called the "special schools" to which, during the previous regime, Romani children were systematically allocated.
Election season interviews by Romea.cz
News server Romea.cz contacted the seven leaders of the political coalitions and parties that have a chance of entering the Chamber of Deputies during the elections to the lower house this year. We based our choice on polls conducted by the Kantar agency during September and sent the same set of questions to the candidates Robert Šlachta (Přísaha - The Oath), Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), Vojtěch Filip (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia - KSČM), Tomio Okamura (SPD), Ivan Bartoš (Pirates + STAN - Mayors and Independents), Petr Fiala (of the Spolu - Together coalition) and Andrej Babiš (of the governing ANO party).
We are gradually publishing their responses in this order, from the candidates who are less popular to those who are the most popular. The first candidate was meant to have been Šlachta, but he never sent us his responses.
On Saturday, 2 October we published our interviews beginning with the statewide leader of the Social Democrats, Hamáček, followed by our interview with the statewide leader and chair of the KSČM, Vojtěch Filip. We also contacted the chair of the SPD and its statewide leader, Okamura, but he never answered our questions, which have been answered instead by Czech MP Lucie Šafránková (SPD), so we are publishing her answers here.
Q: What does your party have in its electoral program in terms of proposals for the inclusion of Romani people?
A: Romani people are citizens of the Czech Republic and the same conditions, laws and rules apply to them as apply to all other citizens. All of the integration programs during the last 30 years have demonstrated that they have been absolutely failed wastes of public monies that have probably just benefited the nonprofit organizations that have made a good living on them without making any contribution to society. We have to use one standard of measurement for everybody and emphasize that there can be no exceptions when it comes to obeying the law. We must significantly strengthen the awareness of the fact that the only honest way to make a living is to work, and especially that the only way to get a good job is by getting a good education, and that the state in future will not in any way subsidize people who intentionally avoid work, not with one single Czech crown.
Q: In the socially excluded localities, voter turnout has long been low. How do you explain that?
A: I explain it by the fact that the inhabitants of these excluded localities, thanks to their dependency on welfare and the fact that they have given up on applying themselves through work and other aspects of life, have no motivation to vote or take an interest in public affairs. Their aim is, in most cases, to survive on welfare for as long as they can and not to change anything about their circumstances. The current form of the welfare system as well as the state are to blame for this as well. We want to - and we must - change this.
Q: Do you have any Romani men or women running as candidates? If not, why, and if so - why?
A: Certainly, yes, in the Ústecký Region. We do not differentiate among citizens on the basis of their ethnic origin, skin color, etc. For us, what is important and key is the individual approach and the qualities and values of each individual person.
Q: Some parties are speaking about what they are calling the abuse of welfare by "inadaptables". Do you agree that such a problem exists? Are benefts being abused on a massive scale? If so, what is the financial volume involved?
A: Yes, naturally this problem exists. We in the SPD are constantly warning of it. We have addressed this issue in detail, in all its breadth, with many experts and we have also offered solutions that were legislatively well-prepared, as well as practical solutions, in response to the fact that the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, under the leadership of the ČSSD, has not been able to address the unbearable situation in the area of the abuse of welfare. The annual statistics of the Labor Offices reveal extensive abuse when drawing welfare, in the broadest possible variety of ways, from providing untruthful data on applications to violating the duties of a beneficiary, to hiding income, etc. During a recent audit of beneficiaries who never attended job interviews, allegedly because they were ill, the Labor Office ascertained that the law had been broken and fraud committed in almost 30 % of such cases! The conservative estimate of the cost of welfare abuse is half a billion Czech crowns per year (EUR 20 million), but it will be higher than that in reality.
Q: In what context do you use the term "inadaptable", and who are you talking about? If you don't use it, could you please explain why?
A: The inadaptables are, for us, able-bodied people who are of the age of productivity who have consciously, over a long period of time, programmatically avoided work, they do not even look for work although they are able to do work. Such persons have a single aim, to live off of the welfare paid by their fellow citizens who do work. This lifestyle is frequently connected with the commission of misdemeanors or felonies. These people also, through their behavior, make the lives of citizens who are decent and who do work much more difficult.
Q: The prices of real estate and rental housing are constantly growing and housing is becoming unaffordable for ordinary families. Is the building of social apartments the solution? Will you be seeing through a law on social housing?
A: There is more than one way to address the critical situation in the area of housing and the unaffordability of apartments, whether owned or rented. Thanks to SPD votes, an amendment to the Act on Construction was adopted that significantly accelerates construction permit proceedings, and with the increase in the number of units on offer, their prices will fall. The SPD is further advocating a start on the construction of units owned by cooperatives, municipal departments and municipalities with state support, e.g., in the form of transferring land and real estate now in state ownership to local governments, i.e., to cities and towns, free of charge. An important part of our program is also interest-free loans to married couples, which families who work will be able to take advantage of to buy housing, where we are proposing to provide significant relief on the repayment of such loans when the family has a child. Naturally we have to boost incomes for working families and for working citizens through other ways, e.g., significantly increasing the tax breaks for the families who work, to cover the cost of childcare, as well as tax breaks for single taxpayers. I did submit an amendment to the Act on the Income Tax during the last administration to that effect, but the Government of ANO and ČSSD rejected it.
Q: How would you like to prevent trafficking in poverty?
A: A solution for that serious problem is contained in our proposal for ending welfare abuse, which we managed to bring forward in the Chamber of Deputies to a third reading, where it was of course blocked by the Pirates, some Social Democrats, and MP Čižinský from the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). Thanks to those politicians, therefore, the immoral business in poverty will continue for the time being, but we will be submitting our bill immediately at the start of the next session. The bill contains more than 70 adjustments that are specific, including significant changes to the system for drawing the housing benefits that are the basis of the so-called business in poverty. Among other matters, we propose introducing minimum public health and technical standards for apartment units and other dwellings where those drawing housing benefits reside, standards that will, for example, make it impossible to draw that money to reside in properties that are in a catastrophic state of repair, without electricity or water, without doors and windows, which is today, unfortunately, the common standard in this area and is part of the involuntary, unacceptable cash outflow from honest taxpayers to the traffickers in poverty who count on these welfare benefits.
Q: The Constitutional Court has abolished the housing benefit-free zones. What is your opinion of that decision? Will you advocate for the adoption of such a law in the future?
A: That Constitutional Court decision is a completely harmful interference in the competences of the public administration, of cities and of municipalities, and it will only expand the problems associated with the abuse of welfare, the business in poverty, and the emergence and expansion of so-called excluded localities with all their related sociopathological phenomena. Furthermore, it will deteroriate the lives of decent, working citizens living near these localities, and in towns and villages where trafficking in housing benefits happens, and where gradually, in certain parts, ghettos are being created with devastated buildings, garbage piles, constant disruption of public order and nighttime quiet, and with negative phenomena that the towns and villages have to address in ways that are complicated and costly, using honest taxpayers' money to pay for doing so. During the next parliamentary session we will also submit bills that make it possible for our mayors of municipalities and municipal departmetns to address this dire state of affairs without concerns about more absurd, harmful interventions by the Constitutional Court.
Q: Are you considering legislating compulsory school attendance until age 18, as is the case elsewhere in the world, to guarantee that some children, after primary school, don't fall out of the education system?
A: Under no circumstances are we considering such a thing, it would be an indefensible waste of public resources in the cases of these families and individuals for whom education is of no value, who currently are far from able to properly finish the ninth grade of primary school, or who drop out of primary school altogether. Our solution consists of abolishing the harmful inclusion in the mainstream schools, in renewing and supporting the special primary schools that make it possible for children with less intellectual ability and with a need for a special approach and care to complete their primary school attendance - and then also a certain apprenticeship. Another important instrument here is introducing sanctions by denying welfare to those parents who are unable or unwilling to arrange for the proper attendance of their children (without unexcused absences) enrolled in primary schools and in the final year of nursery school.
Q: Some regions, for example, the Ústecký Region, are considered below-average compared to others in terms of education. How do you plan to improve the situations in regions where there have long been lower numbers of high school and college graduates?
A: The number of graduates from high school or university is not the main indicator of educational achievement, nor is it the most important. What is much more essential is whether a young person with a trade that he studied in school applies himself in practice and in the rest of his life. For that reason, it is essential to connect the education system with labor market needs, both current and long-term, and in that sense to boost or rather renew the system of apprenticeships, craft education and technical secondary education. Pupils with worse school achievement, for whom neither high school nor college are appropriate, should also be able to apply themselves and have interesting life prospects.
Q: What is your opinion of the targeted support for the education of Romani students? Specifically, for example, scholarships for Romani high school or college students? How can we increase the levels of education achieved by Romani men and women in the Czech Republic?
A: We are not advocates of so-called affirmative action, i.e., special advantages for anybody just, e.g., on the basis of their ethnic origin or nationality. On the contrary, we prefer supporting pupils or students from socially vulnerable families irrespective of their ethnic origin. That is where a municipality, or Regional Authority, or the state already now has a certain opportunity to intervene and provide, in case of need, the contributions to lunches, social need scholarships, etc. The way to generally increase Romani educational achievement in the Czech Republic is mainly effective motivation toward education, showing that education is the way to their being able to apply themselves in the future to good work. It is also necessary to reform the welfare system so that people who honestly work will always have significantly higher incomes than those who, for a long time and programmatically, don't work even though they are able to do so. This includes the sanctions I have mentioned for parents not sending their children to nursery school or primary school, by which they are fundamentally, irreparably harming their children because they are thereby making it practically impossible for them to have decent future life prospects.
Q: What specific steps should the Government take during the next parliamentary session so that the state sufficiently prepares itself for the threat of yet another COVID-19 wave or for a different pandemic in the near future?
A: This is, on the one hand, about reforming the crisis management system, where the aspect of expertise must become stronger than the aspect of politics. Other instruments are the strengthening of health care capacities at all levels, including augmenting and beefing up the network of general practitioners, of which there are a critical lack in many regions, reform of the system of the state's material reserves such that the question of sufficient supplies of medical devices is addressed in a preliminary, preventive way, not waiting until an epidemic is underway to address it, and also the cleansing of that system of corruption mechanisms and risks with respect to costly purchases of such resources, which frequently happen without proper selection tenders, etc. Another important matter is preliminary care for high-risk groups of patients and procuring enough medicines and medical devices irrespective of the arbitrariness of delivery provided by the European Union.
Q: How, in your view, should immunizations take place? Should they be compulsory, for example? Should that be for all, or just for certain professions that customarily come into contact with a wider group of people?
A: In the SPD we have been saying from the beginning, clearly and unambiguously, that immunization must fundamentally be voluntary and that citizens who do not want to be vaccinated must not be discriminated against in any way or have their rights curtailed! That means nowhere, not in their private lives, not in employment, not in contact with state institutions, not in access to education or to services, etc.
Q: How do you plan to approach immunizations in socially excluded localities? Are you planning more outreach about vaccination, or even social work right in the field that could motivate the inhabitants of such places to get immunized? Will your party address this in any special way?
A: We reject all coercive methods, in the sense of forcing people to get vaccinated. People should decide freely for themselves. For those who want to be immunized, there has to exist enough of all types of vaccines so they can choose the one for them. We prefer general practitioners having the main say about vaccination, because they best know the state of health of their patients, and they are able to recommend to them whether to take this step or advise against it, because vaccination is not appropriate for everybody, certain types of vaccines may not be appropriate for everybody.
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