Friday, April 8, 2016

German courts overturned almost 50% of sanctions against basic benefits recipients

Germany's infamous "assist and assert" bureaucracy has done it again.

Last year, German courts overturned just under 50% of sanctions (benefit cuts) levied against residents who receive bare bones basic means tested HARTZ IV benefits.

Out of 51 000 administrative appeals, more than one third - almost 19 000 - were fully or partially reversed by the jobcenter administration.

The simple fact that courts not known for leniency invalidate government decisions in half of all cases brought before them should give any competent lawyers in the jobcenter bureaucracy pause.

But it doesn't.

The same is true for administrative appeals. If over a third are untenable, something is wrong.

Again, it doesn't seem to matter. These figures do not even include all those instances in which the system works and still leaves people go hungry for between a day and a week because of slow initial claims processing or slow updating.

Neither does the number of appeals filed reflect the actual number of wrong decisions correctly. The blogster has knows some benefits recipients and found people tend to be reluctant to appeal even obvious mistakes out of fear of future retaliation. Almost everybody seems to know someone who complained and later had to wait just a little longer for the processing of a follow-up claim.

The latest sanctions statistics we found cover the first six months of 2015, according to this article, they totaled just over 1 million. The fairly constant rate of sanctions is around 3% per year.
Three quarters of benefit cuts were due to recipients not complying with appointments, ten percent were justified with recipients not fully complying with their "integration agreement", which is a "contract" that lists measures designed to help claimants "integrate" into the regular workforce and includes such nasties as having to accept a 1 Euro/hour job, or attending yet another resume writing class.

Benefits cuts start at 10%, then ratchet up to 30%, and - in rare cases - benefits can be withdrawn altogether (just over 7 000 in the period reported in the 2015 article).

Young people under 25 are the hardest hit. For this group, the very first violation triggers a cut, period. Although everybody, including employer organizations, acknowledges that harsh sanctions can lead to homelessness, bad eating habits/malnutrition and mental health problems, representatives of the employers still defended "constructive pressure" on the long term unemployed.

For those readers who buy into the "German benefits are generous and cushy" argument routinely touted by self styled conservatives, this short article in Der Spiegel reports that HARTZ IV recipients in 2016 receive effectively lower benefits than when the system was first introduced in 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, benefits rose by 15.7% while food prices rose by 24.4%.

Mistreatment of claimants is not limited to those who are demonstrably poor - the standard for HARTZ IV. Even people who paid into unemployment insurance for years have to be braced for serious abuse, as we detailed in this earlier post Arrogant and Lazy.

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