Vladimír Leško of the Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds in the Czech Republic: Let's turn welfare recipients into taxpayers
The Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds in the Czech Republic is objecting to plans from the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, led by Jana Maláčová, to push through a new law about housing benefits. According to the Association's press release, the new law will result in repression against those receiving housing benefits and supplements and will significantly tighten the conditions under which those benefits are disbursed.
According to previously-reported information, one condition for receiving housing benefits is meant to become whether the applicant's children attend compulsory education regularly. If a child misses more than 100 hours of school for non-medical reasons, his or her guardian would lose those benefits for up to six months.
"Maláčová is creating an unsystematic association between the housing allowance mechanism and school absences, and in the same breath she is adding that nonprofit organizations and social workers will aid children with attending school in locations that have long been affected by social exclusion," the press release states. "We have no choice but to look for an answer to the question of when the need arose in this society for somebody else to literally corral our children to go to school," says Vladimír Leško, president of the Ostrava-based Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds in the Czech Republic, adding that he is concerned the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Ministry for Regional Development intend to solve this problem by supporting passive social services and shifting responsibility to nonprofit organizations.
Leško also does not like the fact that the bill means children would be punished for the irresponsibility of their parents. The organization calls on the minister to address the actual causes of social exclusion, in particular, undignified housing and the lack of motivation to attend school among children from families at risk of social exclusion.
"The minister's bill proposing to us that social workers, with the aid of a given nonprofit organization, should be corralling our children, getting them 'on a leash' and bringing them to school is a confrontation, at the level of values, with our social level and our human dignity," Leško says, emphasizing that all people who are healthy should have the opportunity to work. "This is also recognized by the Roma from excluded localities themselves, who want sustainable work and need equal employment opportunities," he adds.
According to Leško, a fundamental cause of the currently unfavorable situation is the unemployment that is growing throughout the socially excluded localities. "Do you believe a child whose parents get up just before lunchtime is motivated to go to school early in the morning?" he asks, proposing the building of a sustainable employment mechanism for people who are hard to place in the labor market, a mechanism that would bring about positive outcomes in many directions.
"Let's turn those who draw on housing allowances and welfare benefits into people who contribute to social security and pay taxes," Leško says. He sees one possible solution as employing people in state-owned enterprises in fields not requiring professional qualifications.
"We should eliminate illegal work so people don't have to worry about not getting paid for the work they do. Only then can we discuss better, dignified housing," Leško says, adding that decent housing leads to greater motivation to work in the long term in one place, generally stabilizes families' situations, and gives them room to address their children's education.
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