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Minister Paus: “Child poverty is a shame for Germany”


The basic child security is not available for free, says family minister Paus – also in the direction of the finance minister. She explains why the mammoth project is going to be expensive and why it is still taking a long time Basic child security is one of the central projects of your ministry. But without the yes of Finance Minister Christian Lindner, it could be difficult. Have you priced in a possible failure of basic child security?

Lisa Paus: This coalition has agreed on basic child security with each other. It is the central socio-political project of the entire federal government. Both the Federal Chancellor and the Minister of Finance have clearly stated that they stand by basic child security. We are in intensive talks about the exact design, the interministerial working group on basic child security is still meeting.

The total costs of basic child security are currently out of the question because there is no calculation of the socio-cultural subsistence level. In addition, we do not yet know what the inflation rate will look like in 2025, i.e. in the year in which basic child security is to be paid out.

I think it’s right that the Minister of Finance pointed out that the costs have not yet been decided. But it is also true that basic child security will not be available for free. Because it is also about fighting child poverty.

To person

The Green politician Lisa Paus has been Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth since the end of April 2022. She succeeded Anne Spiegel, who had resigned. Paus made a name for herself primarily as a financial expert for the Green parliamentary group. She was involved early on with the project to provide basic child security and helped to develop the concept of the Greens.

“This is not a green basic security” The Ifo Institute assumes costs of 27 to 33 billion euros for the basic security. That is more than twice as much as is available in the current budget for the Ministry of Family Affairs. What’s going to be so expensive?

break: We are designing basic child security on the basis of the coalition agreement. This is not a basic child protection of the Greens, but one of the coalition. We are planning a guaranteed amount that is based on the amount of the current child benefit, i.e. at least 250 euros. There should also be an income-related additional amount.

The interministerial working group, in which seven departments are involved, is now starting the precise calculations. That’s why we can’t say anything seriously about numbers today. What accounts for the paradigm shift in basic child security that you always talk about?

break: The paradigm shift is that we are systematically tackling a structurally entrenched child poverty in Germany. Firstly through the financial services, secondly through the bundling of the many services that even experts can no longer understand, and thirdly through a new service obligation on the part of the state.

Many families do not know what social benefits they are entitled to. In the future, we want to reach all families who have a claim. Today, up to 70 percent of all families who are entitled to benefits do not take advantage of them. In the future, we want to make the state’s obligation to provide services out of the citizens’ obligation to provide services. There is great leverage in that. For this we will create a digital child protection portal and the “Child Protection Check”.

So far, the state benefits have been too confusing, which is why it makes sense to combine them. The basic child security should reach all family constellations, including the middle class. Getting into financial difficulties can happen to anyone. For example, through a separation: women in particular who are suddenly single parents can quickly get into financial difficulties.

Digital implementation takes time Your coalition partner FDP fears that the basic child security will ultimately be so high that the incentive to work will be lost. How do you ensure that it doesn’t come to that?

break: We want to significantly improve the incentives to take up work, as we did recently with citizen income. This is also the aim of basic child security. I can give you numerous examples where people are only allowed to keep ten percent of their earnings. Or sometimes it is even the case that after earning more than one euro you have even less net than before.

We want to tackle this with the design of the additional amount. It should be designed in such a way that it melts away more slowly than what one earns. In the end, there should definitely be more net than before.

Finance Minister Lindner and Family Minister Paus

Image: REUTERS A few days ago, the cornerstones of your ministry for basic child security became public. But there should only be a draft law in the summer. Why is this taking so long?

break: In view of one of the largest and also very complicated social reforms in recent years, we are well on the way. The interministerial working group is now discussing the key points. Once the members have reached an agreement, the coalition must vote. Then we can start drafting the law.

Of course, that takes time, also because it is a large digitization project. I am confident, but I also know how challenging it really is not only to pass a law by 2025, but also to implement the corresponding digitization modules. Did you anticipate the cornerstones of the working group?

break: No, on the contrary. It is my departmental responsibility to develop a first draft. My company is responsible for this process and has to bundle the work steps. Before I submitted this proposal to the working group, I also had political discussions. In the run-up, I spoke to the Federal Chancellor, the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Construction, the Minister for Education, and the Minister for Labor and Social Affairs about the key points.

“A mammoth project” According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the situation of children living in poverty has continued to deteriorate. The basic child security is to be paid out from 2025. So this is still going on…

break: Because it’s still going to take some time and we can’t just wait and see, the Federal Government has already initiated a number of things in the past year. We have decided on three relief packages as well as economic and stabilization funds. That’s why it was so important to me to raise the child benefit to 250 euros and the child allowance to up to a further 250 euros. All these points are particularly important for poor families.

I know what a mammoth project basic child security is. I’ve been working on the concept for over ten years now, looking at the different aspects and fine-tuning them. Yes, it will take a little longer. By the end of the legislative period, however, the basic child security must actually come. Child poverty is a disgrace for a rich country like Germany. How we deal with it is also an indicator of how socially just we are and how strong the social cohesion is.

The interview was conducted by Sarah Frühauf, ARD capital studio