More Support for the Long-Term Unemployed
For many years now, the German Caritas Association has been campaigning for better employment opportunities for people who no longer have a realistic chance on the regular labour market because of social and health obstacles hindering them from acquiring a job. In the summer of 2007, the government finally laid the foundations for a ‘social labour market’ that is more inclusive.
From the beginning, Caritas has stood up for its position and has taken an active role in the debates. We have argued in favour of creating a ‘social labour market’ for people who have been unemployed for many years due to health problems or a lack of social competence and therefore have little chance of finding a job in the long term. Many of these people have a history of substance abuse, have been homeless or have suffered from mental illness for many years.
Permanent Positions Promote Social Integration
The experience gained in Caritas’ work integration social enterprises shows that regular work can have a stabilising effect on people who have difficulty finding jobs, as it structures their daily lives and improves their self-esteem. Long-term jobs financed through public funds promote social integration in the long term.
Sanctions Have No Place in an Inclusive Labour Market
The new law enables people of working age who are in need of assistance to obtain publicly subsidised, long-term jobs with social security benefits. Although we welcome this development, the German Caritas Association criticises the law because it employs the same sanctions used for recipients of reduced-rate unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld II). This means benefits are cut if recipients refuse to comply with their local job centres. Caritas disagrees with this practice because, due to their health problems, the people in question often have difficulty judging the overall consequences of such decisions. Until they are actually working, it is also difficult to judge whether or not a person is able to successfully participate in the ‘social labour market’. The results can therefore be disproportionately severe because the law does not allow for any alternative courses of action in case management.
Making Sure the Tough Cases Are Not Forgotten
Caritas is concerned that job services primarily only reach those people who are able to find jobs more easily. Our aim, however, is to help the people who have the greatest difficulty finding jobs. People who have been unemployed for a long time and have social and/or health problems require individual care from social workers. This is the only way integration will work. Caritas is therefore deeply committed to the implementation of this new market instrument. We will continue to document, review and submit our experiences to policy-makers and suggest methods of improvement.