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November 30, 2021

 

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Some volunteer civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council protest new law on subjecting welfare benefits to collections

14.7.2021 8:42
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO: Google Maps)

Some of the civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs disagree with the recent bill proposed by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) making it possible to subject welfare benefits designed for the poorest of the poor, specifically the housing benefit and subsistence contribution, to collections proceedings in order to cover certain kinds of debts owed by such welfare recipients to local authorities. "Reducing or withholding these benefits will deprive many families of their housing and their basic cost of living will not be covered if those living in material distress see their already low incomes further reduced," the members said in a statement sent to news server Romea.cz which is being published here in full translation.

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs on the amendment to aid in material distress

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs fundamentally disagree with the bill submitted by Czech MPs Jan Bauer, Petr Fiala, Zbyněk Stanjura, Jana Černochová and other MPs through which welfare recipients' housing benefits and subsistence contributions will be reduced until all of the fines levied against them for a selected list of misdemeanors defined in the amendment to the law on welfare have been paid. 

By expressing our disagreement we do not intend to downplay the importance of the preventive or repressive function of such sanctions for such offenses. However, in this current state of affairs, when those who are most impoverished have not had their situations adequately or sufficiently addressed, this chosen solution for collecting debt will absolutely destroy many of these welfare recipients, above all when the Labor Offices are being encouraged to withdraw housing benefits from such people.     

Reducing or withholding these benefits will deprive many families of their housing, and if those living in material distress see their already low incomes further reduced, their basic costs of living will not be covered.

The civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs are aware that as a result of rhetorical attacks on welfare recipients, there has been a shift in the public perception of the aims and importance of welfare, a transformation that is underway right now. Of course, under the rule of law, legislation cannot be comprehended just as way to convey the broadest possible range of changes in opinion, which has now slid down the slippery slope to a level that gives the impression of legitimacy to tougher practices against those receiving social benefits.

In association with these intentional, tendentious attempts by some MPs it is necessary to recall that this bill will essentially make it more difficult, for example, for such people to have a chance of staying in their rental housing - which is possible what some of those proposing this amendment are after, as some of them also contributed to the existing state of affairs by previously adopting an amendment to the law that made it possible to establish so-called "housing benefit-free zones" on municipal territory.  

Abusing the law on aid to those in material distress in order to achieve a superficial kind of "justice" cannot become a justification for politicians to shore up their own positions by making decisions that interfere with the most impoverished and most vulnerable groups in the population in such a basic, destructive way.

For that reason, we are proposing legislators undertake the effective, systemic solutions that are included in the Czech Government Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participatoin of Romani people for 2021-2027, which was adopted by the Czech Government, led by the Czech Prime Minister, at its session on 10 May 2021, solutions that will lead to the actual improvement of welfare policy in this state so the degree of poverty will not keep escalating; the amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress does not fulfill this criterion. 

Jan Husák
Alena Drbohlavová Gronzíková
Iveta Thesauerová
Tomáš Ščuka
Alica Sigmund Heráková
Zdeněk Guži
Josef Stojka
Čeněk Růžička (past member)
Gwendolyn Albert
 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Exekuce sociálních dávek, Poslanecká sněmovna, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny, Sociální vyloučení



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