asks Kristina Lochner from Salzgitter. She is a single parent and studies in Wolfenbuttel.
"Why is helping low-income earners so complicated??
When a relative becomes ill or in need of care, when the partner also leaves the children, families face special problems. Four readers know the plight from their own experiences and talk about it with Lower Saxony's Minister for Social Affairs, Health and Equality, Cornelia Rundt. Rundt has been in Stephan Weil's Lower Saxony cabinet since 2013. Previously, she was on the board of the Paritatischer Wohlfahrtsverband Niedersachsen for a long time.
Kristina Lochner: Single parents are mother and father to their children and at the same time take care of earning money. Why aren't there more jobs that are parent-friendly?
In order to fundamentally relieve parents and counteract the hectic labor market, the federal government is currently discussing family time off. So parents can reduce working hours in the first year of their child's life – funded by the federal government. And we are currently discussing with the federal government an advance on child support financed by the state and federal governments if the other parent, usually the father, does not pay.
In Lower Saxony, we are talking specifically to the Employment Agency: Are the jobs also available for single parents?? We are also trying to strengthen part-time education. We have just introduced a new bill for part-time legal clerkships, the first of its kind in Germany. These are at least small steps in the right direction.
Antje Bohl: I am a single parent with two boys. My eldest is doing an apprenticeship in Bavaria. But he always has health problems. If he is not well, I cannot afford the trip to Bavaria from the unemployment benefit II payments. How can I be helped??
The standard rate for ALG-II benefits does not take into account special situations, such as when a family member is ill and travel is necessary. Poverty is a big ie. We are a rich country, but on the other hand, one in six adults and one in five children is at risk of poverty. The benefits are sufficient to ensure that no one goes hungry. But it is not enough to really participate in society.
Kristina Lochner: The children of low-income earners should be able to participate in cultural life with the help of financial benefits. But why is there never enough money for this??
When the education and participation package was passed, the Federal Constitutional Court reprimanded Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen because her law was unconstitutional. It has hurt the dignity of the children. Von der Leyen then developed this ten-euro voucher, which was supposed to be used to finance music or sports lessons, for example. But that was not enough. The dignity of children cannot be restored with a ten-euro voucher. It should have increased the standard rate for children.
Kristina Lochner: Whenever I apply for a benefit for my children, I have to submit each application individually, it's so much bureaucracy. Why is the help so complicated?
We have about 150 individual family benefits that parents have to apply for every time they need them. The regulations are getting more and more detailed. And the parents have to come out as low-income earners every time they apply again. I would like to combine the benefits in a basic child allowance. But this decision lies with the federal government and not with the state. In the Bundesrat, I try to inspire my colleagues to support the basic child allowance. Slowly the understanding for it grows. But it is difficult to find a suitable legal form for this. Because if you start at one corner and scrape together the funds for it, you have to cut back again at the other corner.
Almost half of the single parents in Lower Saxony are threatened by poverty. With the basic child allowance, a burden could be lifted from their shoulders. And that would also counteract the second problem: the unjustified mistrust of single parents by the authorities, that they don't really let their money benefit their children. The truth is, however, that single parents do everything imaginable for their children, usually even by doing without the most basic necessities.
Valentina Schmierer: I could work as a nurse and thus provide for my pension today. Do you think that young families have it easier or harder than before??
Young people today have it easy and hard at the same time. There will be less pension for them later than for today's pensioners. Nevertheless, we are experiencing the best conditions for getting a job in Lower Saxony because of the shortage of skilled workers. Things looked very different in my generation.
Valentina Schmierer: My husband and I have three children. We decided against a fourth child because we couldn't offer him a future financially. And I didn't want to give it away for adoption either.
I can well understand that you say you can't have a child and then leave it in other people's hands. But I would like to take up the cudgels for adoptive parents. As I am an adoptive mother myself, in addition to having two biological children, I know how much blood of the heart is involved. In the case of adoptions, we also have significantly more wishes to adopt children than to give children up for adoption. In the adoption families, the children are usually in very good hands.
Valentina Schmierer: Especially as a woman, you think twice about whether you want to have children, because then what about work?? Those who first bring up the children are later too old to start working.
When I had two children during my studies in the 70s, the distribution of roles was different than it is today. As a woman, I was expected to stay at home. Practically this was not possible at all differently. Legal entitlement to a daycare place did not exist. After all, I was in my late thirties when I entered the workforce. After many changes, however, I eventually arrived at my job. That has changed significantly today, where both parents are equally responsible for the care of the children. Nevertheless, in everyday life, equality does not always work properly.
Once I talked with young feminists. They were in their mid-twenties and very committed to women's ies. But when they had children, the man then went to work and the women took care of the children. In the head the role conceptions have changed, likewise with young men. But in reality we stay with the old pictures.
Marlis Wiedemann: But in other places we still have to change the images. As a relative of a mentally ill person, I was horrified when the Federal Participation Act was passed at the end of September. Far too little is changing to really bring people with disabilities into the center of our society. Can you push for improvements, especially in long-term care insurance??
The current Federal Participation Act does a lot of good, for example, for an academically trained wheelchair user with income and assets, rightly so, because there were previously great injustices for this group of people. But for the rest of us, far too little is happening. With this reference I have also spoken in the discussion in the Bundesrat.
It will be especially difficult with care insurance. If a person with a disability has a care level, they sometimes no longer receive benefits to reintegrate them into society. This is not in the law, but there is a mistrust that the municipalities will not pay the integration assistance at all if the nursing care insurance takes over a small share.
This is due to a fundamental error: In the coalition agreement between the SPD and the CDU, it was agreed at the federal level that the municipalities should be relieved of 5 billion euros from integration assistance. The money now goes to the municipalities, but it is no longer tied to inclusion. And this is exactly where the law suffers, because it is no longer backed up with money. In parts, however, the law can still be tightened up by 2020. We have just prevented a new remuneration system in the psychiatric hospitals in the Bundesrat. With it it would have happened like in the hospital: Everything faster and more patients in less time.