Labour Ministry: Child benefits revoked only for serious violations

The Labour, Social Affairs and Family Ministry drafted an amendment to the Child Benefits Act that introduces more stringent conditions for receiving child benefits. The amendment’s proposal to withhold child benefits from parents of children who behave poorly in school provoked a wave of criticism.

The Labour, Social Affairs and Family Ministry drafted an amendment to the Child Benefits Act that introduces more stringent conditions for receiving child benefits. The amendment’s proposal to withhold child benefits from parents of children who behave poorly in school provoked a wave of criticism.

The liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party offered the harshest response to the measure. “To institute a condition that a child has to be on its best behaviour at school in order for parents to be eligible for benefits is a typical show of reality-insulated bureaucracy,” said SaS, as quoted by the TASR newswire. According to the party, it is inappropriate to give school teachers and headmasters the power to de facto make decisions on material sanctions against parents and pupils in a subjective environment where often more than a single point of view exists.

Child benefits will not be withdrawn from parents whose children wear makeup or kiss fellow classmates, Labour Ministry spokesman Michal Jurči said in response on Wednesday, July 24. The ministry maintains that the opposition party's statements are a gross distortion of reality and of the ministry's intentions. Under the new rules, parents will not be eligible for the benefits if their children fail to attend school or repeatedly commit misdemeanours.

Jurči further stressed that the purpose of the bill is to target only parents of socially unadjusted, rowdy children “who hinder teachers from working and bully or even directly threaten their classmates,” he claimed, adding that sanctions will not be imposed for trivial violations of school rules. “Such a sanction comes into consideration only after the pupil is repeatedly reprimanded or has reduced behaviour grades.” In such a case, payment of child benefits might be suspended temporarily.

Labour Ministry state secretary Jozef Burian, the author of the proposal, cites the regulation on elementary schools, according to which “educational measures” should be applied only in case of grave or repeated transgressions, the Sme daily wrote.

Laco Oravec of the Milan Šimečka Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, insists that the grammar and the wording of the draft amendment is unambiguous, giving the schools powers to issue written admonitions at their will and thus punish parents financially. He adds that the ministry should withdraw the draft. Miroslav Beblavý of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) opines, according to Sme, that it is necessary to handle a group of citizens who cannot be managed by positive measures, but he adds that the proposal as such could create problems, equating minor misbehaviour with a serious transgression.

SaS even proposed Prime Minister Robert Fico to dismiss Burian, the daily wrote. Recently, Fico cancelled another draft amendment of Burian’s, which asked for mothers of small children who are employed to be ineligible for child benefits.

(Source: TASR, Sme)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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