Eat only once or twice a day: Affected by the agreement on citizen income

Nora* doesn't have too many hopes for the new citizens' allowance - she has the impression that those affected play no role in politics (symbolic image).

Nora* doesn’t have too many hopes for the new citizens’ allowance – she has the impression that those affected play no role in politics (symbolic image). Image: pexels / vitaly

politics

Rebecca Sawicki

There is now agreement on the subject of citizen money. After a discussion between Ampel and Union – and some adjustments to the previous draft law – the way is clear for the Hartz IV reform. The Bundestag has already approved it. How do those affected see what is to come?

One of them is Nora, whose real name is different, but who wants to remain anonymous. Nora is 35 years old, married and mother of a son. Both she and her husband receive Hartz IV. At watson, Nora reports on how she became part of the system and how she and her family are currently doing. And she talks about how she perceives the debate about citizen income and what expectations she has of the reform.

Nora tells:

“I saw a lot of violence growing up and experienced it myself. When I was young, I suffered from depression, which was not properly recognized at the time. Especially not from my mother. This has made them chronic. At some point I refused everything and therefore had to go from high school to secondary school.

Nora has struggled with depression since she was young - it had an impact on her education (symbol image).

Nora has struggled with depression since she was young – it had an impact on her education (symbol image).Image: pexels / karolina grabowska

When I was 18 or 19, I got my bearings again and did an apprenticeship as an industrial clerk. During this training I became ill with an anxiety and panic disorder. So much so that I was on sick leave for more than half a year – I was able to complete my training with a bang because of the absences. The company didn’t take me on.

And then I wanted to focus on my health first. I did therapy, but as a career starter with such long absences, I didn’t get the connection afterwards – despite numerous applications. I’ve been in the system ever since.

And there I am stuck.

My husband and I have been in a job center measure for over a year – that means we have to go to family coaching three times a week. There we are accompanied by a social worker. Since then things have been going uphill.

“I’ve been in this system for so long that I’ve come to terms with not playing a political role.”

But before that, my husband and I slipped through the cracks. Nobody knew what to do with us. We didn’t even get any more job offers. In its form, the system hardly allows for recovery for people who are ill.

I no longer have any hope that things will improve.

I’ve been in this system for so long that I’ve resigned myself to not playing a political role. But of course I wished that the traffic light with citizen’s income would at least raise the standard rates. Of the Joint Welfare Association has calculated that the citizen’s income would have to amount to 725 euros in order to be poverty-proof. I would say that’s okay. That’s almost 220 euros more than we should get from January.

Poverty is fought primarily with money. Because poverty means that I am financially unable to afford everyday necessities. 220 euros more would cover the cost of electricity and groceries, especially in times of inflation. And maybe give our son at least a little socio-cultural participation.

For Nora and her husband, poverty also means: no more than two meals a day, no fruit, no snacks.

For Nora and her husband, poverty also means: no more than two meals a day, no fruit, no snacks.Image: pexels / rodnae productions

Our money is currently so tight that my husband and I can eat one or two meals a day. No snacks, no fruit. There is more for our son, he eats lunch at school and also gets meals in between. But it’s not enough for us.

Due to rising energy prices and inflation, many people today focus more on the issue of poverty. I perceive more encouragement, more understanding. People listen to us victims more often. But I also take a critical view of this – all of this only happens because the pandemic and now inflation have made everyone realize what it means to limit oneself. It would be nice if people listened to us like that. I don’t wish the conditions we’ve had here since 2020 on anyone. Nobody should be poor.

But what is also part of the truth: through the #Ibinarmutbeschlag initiative, our perspective has received more attention than ever before. Nevertheless, we are still not mentioned enough in public debates. People talk about us, not with us. It doesn’t matter to me whether a traffic light politician or a Unionist is on the talk show – very few politicians have experienced poverty.

“Even before this agreement was reached with the Union, I didn’t think that the citizen’s allowance was the biggest social reform of the decade.”

Apart from CDU and CSU, who I believe are intentionally running a misinformation campaign – you can’t accidentally be wrong like that – things are discussed that people have no idea about. Not even social workers or the clerks in the job center know exactly what they are doing. They always have to check what exactly applies to whom now.

Behind all this is a huge, complicated and opaque jumble of law. This means that the talk shows often feature people who do not know poverty and who also have little in-depth knowledge.

Even before this agreement with the Union, I didn’t think that the citizen’s allowance was the biggest social reform of the decade – and now I certainly don’t. The reform would have originally changed a lot for people who are new to the system.

I think that’s a good thing, nobody should have to use up all of their savings in the first year.

LR Friedrich Merz, CDU party chairman, and Olaf Scholz SPD, Federal Chancellor, taken during the session of the German Bundestag in Berlin, June 3, 2022.  Berlin Germany *** LR Friedrich ...

After the veto in the Bundesrat, the traffic light had to move towards the CDU/CSU when it came to citizen income.Image: imago images/ Florian Gärtner

But I would actually have wished for freedom from sanctions for everyone in the system. Even if it’s not coming now anyway. The sanctions affect a fraction of the recipients – but everyone else is in a very patronizing, frightening system. My opponent can take my base away from me at any time, that’s very threatening.

The only thing that I see as positive about the new citizens’ allowance is the additional income opportunities for young people. In other words, that the money they earn in training or with summer jobs is not simply taken away from them. In the end, of course, we’ll have to wait and see what really comes on January 1st.

“The more we step down, the greater the fear of people who are about to slip.”

Overall, I don’t think it’s right that this system is based on a power imbalance. We have to be equal. I want to be seen as a human being with all my idiosyncrasies and problems. Not as a number. Of course there are very good clerks – but there are also many who treat us as if we all live up to the cliché of the smoking, drinking unemployed. That’s not good for self-confidence.

This picture is by the politics formed over the past 20 years. The more we step down, the greater the fear of those about to slip. And that ultimately solidifies the low-wage sector.

Even the new name of “Bürgergeld” will not change these prejudices.”

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