The Federal Council has rejected the draft law for the controversial citizens’ allowance of the traffic light. The Berlin social worker Nele Thönnessen had asked for improvements on Sunday at “Anne Will”. In an interview with FOCUS online, she explains which weaknesses the mediation committee now has to fix.

FOCUS Online: Ms. Thönnessen, the Federal Council has just rejected the bill for citizen income and referred it to the mediation committee. As a social worker in Berlin and Brandenburg, you will help children growing up in precarious circumstances. Among other things, they also campaigned for improvements on “Anne Will” on Sunday evening. What does the rejection mean from your point of view?

Nele Thönnessen: That’s a good sign for me. Because it gives politicians the chance to actually revise a major weakness in the law. Namely those that not all social groups should be lumped together.

Can you explain that briefly?

Thönnessen: The current draft does not differentiate sufficiently between social differences and the entitlements of individual groups derived from them. From my point of view, it is absurd for a single unemployed person who is healthy and could work, but does not want to, to be paid the basic income and thus, for example, put it on an equal footing with a single mother who works.

Will social assistance, which is supposed to be citizen income, become at least a part of “idle money”?

Thönessen: No, I don’t see it that way. But what matters with social assistance is that the support that is granted is linked to a few conditions that offer job seekers a way out not only of the precarious circumstances, but above all of the lack of professional prospects. It is the principle of promoting and demanding. The Federal Employment Agency has to take a much closer look when examining entitlements. Otherwise people will never get out of this vicious circle of no prospects and will say to themselves: Why should I work if the state gives me enough money to live on without any restrictions? It’s also socially unfair.

Can you give an example from one family that illustrates where the problem lies?

I know the case of a working father who had taken a German course and went to the employment agency to apply for unemployment benefit II because his earnings were not sufficient because he had gotten into trouble because of high additional costs. When he sought advice from the Federal Employment Agency, he was told: It’s not worth the effort for you. They should apply for citizen money, then they will get more without having to work for it.’ And this is not an isolated case. There is obviously still great potential for training at the Federal Employment Agency. This should also be clarified by the mediation committee.

You work with children. In your experience, what does it mean when a father lies on the sofa instead of working and explains to the children that it’s not worth working because the state pays enough citizen income?

This can have tragic implications in a number of ways. On the one hand, because parents are the first role models for children. Parents can seriously harm the children’s prospects for their own future if they discover from parents as ‘role models’ that one does not necessarily have to work because the state itself pays citizens’ income for those who are unwilling to work.

But the problems that can arise from this are not only of a family and individual nature, but also of an overall economic nature. Because these children will not be part of the labor market when they grow up. Instead of supporting the social systems with their contributions, these children will only be a burden for the state. And that’s not a nice prospect for anyone.

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