Too little, too bureaucratic, too expensive: the agreement on basic child welfare is criticized from many sides. In an interview with tagesschau.de However, Family Minister Paus defends the draft law as a “milestone”.
tagesschau.de: Ms. Paus, are you now satisfied with the joint draft law on basic child welfare?
Lisa Paus: I am very happy that today we are launching the central social policy reform as a traffic light: basic child welfare. This is a joint success of this federal government, but of course also of the Ministry of Family Affairs. We will actually manage to initiate a system change in Germany with basic child welfare and thus begin to effectively combat structurally entrenched child poverty in Germany.
“Get out of citizen’s money”
tagesschau.de: Some points were still controversial recently, which is why the draft law only came to the cabinet today.
Pause: We wanted to make sure that the numbers were secure on a few points. That is very crucial in this project. And yes, we managed to reduce further bureaucratic costs by 150 million euros. That was my plan from the beginning and we verified it again. And in fact: This basic child benefit significantly reduces bureaucratic costs, among other things through another measure.
tagesschau.de: Which one exactly?
Pause: With the basic child benefit we are getting 1.9 million children off the citizen’s allowance. We took a closer look again: What is actually the income of the children? The so-called child benefit transfer is currently credited to parents receiving citizen benefit. The question was: How do we deal with this in the future? This child benefit transfer will be abolished and we will be able to save bureaucratic costs amounting to 150 million euros.
Performance improvement and structural reform
tagesschau.de: What is the focus now – digitizing and aggregating services or reducing child poverty?
Pause: With the basic child benefit there will be improvements in performance. Yes, the socio-cultural subsistence level is not being increased as much as some might have wished. However, we are changing and improving it, and there will be additional performance improvements for individual groups: for example for single parents or for young people aged 14 and over who are currently receiving child supplement.
That’s why it’s both: an improvement in services on the one hand, but also a structural reform, which is so crucial so that the benefits actually reach the families. This brings us from the family’s debt to collect to the state’s debt to combat child poverty.
tagesschau.de: Finance Minister Lindner would say: There are no performance improvements.
Pause: The specific performance improvements can be found in the law we agreed on.
“The central instrument”
tagesschau.de: By what percentage will the number of children at risk of poverty be reduced in the next few years as a result of basic child welfare?
Pause: With basic child welfare, we will not reduce poverty in Germany to zero – but we will get started. And we then have the central instrument to combat child poverty in Germany. We will be able to see the effect of the law as soon as the measures start to take effect.
tagesschau.de: Can you give other figures: Will the costs of the introduction remain at 2.4 billion euros? How will expenses increase in subsequent years?
Pause: We expect 47 percent take-up in 2025. In the following years, our goal is of course to reach at least 80 percent of the families who are entitled to additional benefits. Therefore, the 2.4 billion is the starting point. Once digitalization and automation are expanded, it will be six billion euros in 2028. If the families who are entitled to the benefits actually apply for them, then there will be more expenses.
“Introduction to the abolition of child poverty”
tagesschau.de: The number of young people without a school leaving certificate remains high. What incentive is there for this group to complete a degree if there is, so to speak, an unconditional basic income through basic child welfare up to the age of 21?
Pause: That’s not the case. In all variants, the basic child benefit ensures that it increases the incentives to work, because in any case there is more net of the gross.
tagesschau.de: Those affected and associations criticize that the law is not enough. What would you like to say to them?
Pause: Yes, it is not yet the end of child poverty. It is an introduction to abolition. But I say to all associations: Take a closer look at the law! Significantly more will reach the families who actually need it.
“No new additional authority”
tagesschau.de: How do you respond to critics who fear that the family service will create more bureaucracy?
Pause: We are not creating any new additional authority. We are reducing bureaucracy with this law. Yes, there are shifts: children are now coming out of the job centers and into family services. But that is an essential goal of basic child security, that we have a body that takes care of all family policy issues and that the job centers do the job whose name they already bear: They are supposed to make sure that parents get jobs .
tagesschau.de: The Federal Employment Agency (BA) recently described the start of basic child welfare on January 1, 2025 as “unrealistic”. What do you say?
Pause: We looked closely at the Federal Employment Agency’s statement and incorporated relevant parts into the draft law. We have thus reduced additional interfaces. This is completely in my opinion and a good prerequisite for us to get the starting signal on January 1st, 2025.
“In the hands of the Bundestag”
tagesschau.de: Do you have a plan B if the law gets stuck in the Federal Council and the Mediation Committee for a longer period of time?
Pause: This basic child security is a milestone in combating and reducing structurally entrenched child poverty in Germany. It is now crucial that we get this started quickly so that citizens can benefit from basic child welfare on time.
tagesschau.de: But this must be agreed to.
Pause: Yes, therefore, after the Federal Cabinet, it is actually in the hands of the Bundestag, but above all also the Bundesrat, whether this reform comes or not. There are many good reasons why we need this reform. If we want to do this together, then we can do it.
“It’s about time”
tagesschau.de: Ms. Paus, did it help the matter that you carried out your dispute with the Finance Minister so publicly, even to the point of blocking the Growth Opportunities Act?
Pause: It is true that the path to this law was not entirely easy. But it’s good that we’re at this point now and that we’ve managed to get it into the cabinet in time. It’s about time. We are still on schedule.
The interview was conducted by Sarah Beham, ARD Capital Studio.