Citizens’ money replaces Hartz IV: “It’s easier to refuse now” – politics


Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil wants Hartz IV, i.e. unemployment benefit II, through a citizen money substitute. Job seekers should then feel less pressure from the state. A so-called sanctions moratorium has been in effect since July, so that there is no longer any need to fear a reduction in performance if, for example, a job offer is rejected or a further training measure is discontinued. Stefan Graaf heads the job center for the Aachen region and is spokesman for the nationwide network of job centers.

SZ: Mr. Graaf, what is your experience with the sanctions moratorium?

Stefan Graaf: There tends to be more people who don’t cooperate with the job centers; they say: You cannot cut my services. That is also true for our funding offers or further training measures. But that only affects a few customers. With them, we have to rely even more on personal persuasion.

But there are also customers who no longer keep appointments, although then the service can be reduced by ten percent. We don’t have any hard facts yet, but that’s the feedback.

What does that mean for your work?

Colleagues find it difficult to deal with these cases. They ask themselves: How am I supposed to help now? There are also people who no longer let job center employees into their homes, arguing that they don’t have to. However, we are talking here about a minority of maybe two to three percent. It is more challenging to approach these people, and it is now easier for them to refuse. But there is also a positive effect.

Namely?

The waiver of the sanctions acts like a filter for our support measures, for example in the careers orientation courses. The caregivers there find that those who are dissatisfied stay away, as do the people who only pretend to participate in order to avoid a reduction in performance from the job center. They don’t come anymore, they don’t have to fear a reduction anymore. The people who go there are really motivated. It’s in a much better mood now.

The planned citizens’ allowance is intended to give the job centers more decision-making leeway, for example with regard to sanctions. Do you think that’s a good thing or is something being passed on to the intermediaries?

Greater leeway and more justice in individual cases is the right thing to do. However, the planned period of trust, during which hardly anything can be enforced with customers for six months, I see with some discomfort. Especially at the beginning it is important to set the right course together. Unfortunately, if someone does not want this, valuable time is lost.

Stefan Graaf, head of the job center for the Aachen region

Stefan Graaf, head of the job center for the Aachen region and spokesman for the nationwide network of job centers, sees light and shadow when it comes to citizen income.

(Photo: Jobcenter Aachen)

In the event of a dispute, arbitration is provided. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Actually, the citizen’s allowance is supposed to help reduce bureaucracy, but such an arbitration procedure might mean more work for us. In the future, every customer can call in the event of a dispute and say that he can’t get along with his agent. Then he or she can request an arbitrator.

After all, with the draft law on citizen income, you now know roughly what to expect.

Still, time is running out. It will probably be the end of November by the time the Bundestag and Bundesrat have the draft. This is a very short lead time for the job centers and the necessary work. Actually, we need about half a year to prepare for such a major reform. The IT programs have to be adapted, employees have to be trained and so on. And at the moment we are still very busy taking in and caring for Ukrainian war refugees. The current increase in energy and heating costs will also mean a lot of work for us.



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