Volunteer civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council: Proposed welfare amendment violates guaranteed rights
An amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress currently awaiting a second reading in the Czech lower house does not respect the fundamental principles and rights that such welfare benefits are meant to guarantee, according to some of the volunteer civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs. Romani community members and others on the Council point out that during the last six years, seven such amendments to the law on aid to those in material distress have been submitted to the legislature for consideration.
"... all the bills that involve such sanctions have been based on the conviction that this law can be bent to the will of those submitting such amendments," reads the declaration by the volunteer civil society members of the Roma Council, who believe this law cannot under any circumstances be repurposed as an instrument for "re-educating" benefit recipients. These Council members believe that if this amendment were to be adopted, it would once again make the situation worse.
The declaration is signed by nine volunteer civil society members of the Council. News server Romea.cz is publishing it here in full translation.
Declaration by volunteer civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs
A bill authored by Czech MPs Jan Bauer, Petr Fiala, Zbyněk Stanjura, Jana Černochová and others to promulgate an amendment to Act No. 111/2006, Coll., on aid to those in material distress, as well as several other laws, has been scheduled for a second reading in the lower house.
The amendment is aimed at the additional housing benefit and the allowance for subsistence and, if an individual has been fined for committing a misdemeanor and has yet to pay the fine, proposes that the amount of the fine be deducted from these benefits, specifically for the misdemeanors of not enrolling a child in compulsory education, neglecting the care of a child by allowing the child to miss more than 100 hours of compulsory school attendance during one semester without a valid excuse, or committing misdemeanors against public order, civil coexistence and property.
It is certainly not possible to assume the role of a blind defender of those who commit such misdemeanors, but the amendment to the law that is currently being discussed cannot be considered the optimal legal solution, especially since it does not respect the fundamental principles and rights such benefits are meant to uphold.
As can be seen from the debate on this law, during the last six years such amendments to the law on aid to those in material distress have been submitted seven times.
"... we support this bill being read a second time because certainly none of us here wants state social support benefits to be abused ..." These words pronounced during that debate exactly express what the motivations of some MPs are for continually submitting newer and newer amendments to the law on aid to those in material distress.
Let's leave aside the fact that, despite repeatedly submitting amendments to this legislation, some MPs continue to confuse the law on state social support with the law on aid to those in material distress. It is, however, impossible to ignore the fact that all the bills that involve such sanctions have been based on the conviction that this law can be bent to the will of those submitting such amendments.
It is also not possible to defend this intention with reference to the state's inability to fulfill Government measures that have already been approved, as confirmed by these words of a Communist Party for Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) MP: "The KSČM supports the passage in the first reading of this amendment from MP Bauer and his colleagues who have submitted it regarding the law on aid to those in material distress. I say this because it is also the way we have chosen to respond to what we said in the Committee on Social Policy, where six ministries, except the Ministry for Regional Development, have so far more or less done nothing to initiate the '15 Measures to Combat Poverty'. You may have had, or you do have, information from the last tripartite session that 98 % of those measures were termed unfulfilled, unfulfilled, unfulfilled."
What is more, the bill has been submitted with the awareness that it may clash with a right of which the submitters are most probably cognizant, especially since one, during the "defense" of the amendment, commented in the following words: "I will try to shorten it, maybe it's worth it - risk yields profit, but sometimes loss."
An amendment to a law, though, cannot possibly be submitted as a "risk" through which I, as a lawmaker, grimly take a stand against the meaning and objectives of a legal norm.
Let's recall that the law on aid to those in material distress must be comprehended as directly implementing Article 26, paragraph 3 and Article 30, paragraph 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, i.e., the right to enjoy adequate material security during unemployment. In other words, under no circumstances is this legislation an instrument for the "re-education" of these beneficiaries, which is what those submitting it claim to want to achieve.
What is even more painful is the fact that some MPs are assuming the role of defending those whom they call "decent people" and are repeatedly intensifying hatred in society against those who draw welfare benefits. Lastly, it is not possible to consider these alleged concerns about the deteriorating behavior of the impoverished, or even the alleged concerns about welfare abuse, to be legitimate aims of the amendment submitted.
When it comes to abusing welfare, those submitting this amendment and its quiet defenders seem, with a significant dose of arrogance, to be excluding the option for welfare disbursals to be legally audited. Today there are lawful procedures in place already to prosecute such behavior and strictly control welfare abuse. The question of abuse, therefore, cannot be perceived as implying the non-existence of lawful approaches to addressing it.
There do not exist any sanctions for those who incite the abuse of benefits, however. Those submitting this amendment are attempting to incorporate sanctions from other norms into this one law in particular, the law on aid for persons in material distress, but the already-adopted legislation certainly is not meant to serve the purpose of transforming such benefits into a source of income for the municipalities that are empowered to adjudicate misdemeanors and levy fines, nor is upholding the right to material security supposed to lead to disproportionate restrictions on the right to enjoy basic living conditions (for reasons other than those stipulated by law). A concrete solution for achieving the payment of fines levied against those who have committed misdemeanors surely cannot deviate from the fundamental framework of the Constitution, but this bill amending the law on aid to those in material distress does just that, and if it is adopted it will make the situation worse, as evidenced by all of the previous proposals for amendments to this particular law.
Alena Drbohlavová Gronzíková
Alica Sigmund Heráková
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner tells ROMEA TV ombudsman is wrong to say Roma not involved with Strategy, removal of his deputy from councils makes no sense
- Czech ombudsman claims his deputy was not appointed to Govt councils, Romea.cz has proof that is not true
- Czech ombudsman removes his deputy from Govt councils after she disagrees with his official comments on the Roma Strategy
- Volunteer civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council: ombudsman intentionally undermining the dignity of Romani people
- Czech Pirates criticize Govt report on education of Romani children for not reflecting COVID-19 impact and lack of access to distance learning
- Romani community members debate the Czech Govt Strategy on Roma for 2021-2030
- Czech Govt to divert billions of crowns from the EU away from social services even as COVID-19 increases demand for debt counseling
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner expects new Roma strategy to be adopted by the end of January
- Edita Stejskalová on resigning as a volunteer civil society member of the Czech Govt Roma Council: We should advise ministers, not lower-level officials
- Two more volunteer civil society members of Czech Govt Roma Council resign, civil vice chair post currently empty
- New volunteer civil society member of Czech Govt Roma Council says it does not communicate with the Romani public enough
- Emil Voráč: Czech Govt COVID-19 measures have not stopped our work, but the poorest are being forgotten
- Vice-Chair of Czech Govt Council for Roma Minority Affairs wants to hear what Romani entrepreneurs need to respond to the effects of the pandemic
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner thanks Roma for their aid during COVID-19 and wishes them well on International Romani Day
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner: Nonprofits are irreplaceable in combating COVID-19
- Jan Horvát: Czech and Slovak Govts must immediately combat COVID-19 in excluded localities
- Civil society members of Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs call on new ombudsman to meet
- Jan Balog: Romani nonprofits in Prague will meet to discuss dissatisfaction with Czech Govt Council for Roma Minority Affairs
- Czech mayors regret abolition of housing benefit-free zones, one alleges the move will "cause extremism"
- Czech Senate approves compensation for the victims of illegal sterilizations
- New Czech political movement uses the old campaign trick of alleging "inadaptables" abuse welfare, names the Romani community as an example
- Czech analyst warns that if welfare restrictions are adopted, societal tension will increase
- Commentary: Czech right-wing populists close to destroying lifesaving social protections
- Commentary: Czech amendment to tighten welfare restrictions is just more salt in the wound
- Czech NGOs say lawmakers want to cut welfare despite impending social crisis
- Czech local zones to cancel housing benefits create more poverty, the biggest one is Ústí nad Labem
- Czech housing benefit rules become more strict as of 1 July
- Commentary: Czech Labor Minister's bill to change housing benefits will make life worse for those who need aid the most
- Slovak Plenipotentiary for Roma says Govt decision not to deliver benefits to Romani settlements is inhumane
- Czech Caritas: Debts cause school dropout, welfare reforms will not improve attendance