What the German government is doing for children during the pandemic
How important are the concerns of children for the German government?
Children’s concerns are a very high priority for the German government. Recently, the Chancellor again stressed that we must do everything to ensure that our children and young people are not the ones who lose out because of the pandemic. Their education, at nursery and school, must be the single most important consideration.
That alone demonstrates how important children’s wellbeing is for the entire German government. And that is true both in general and during the pandemic in particular. That is why the German government is adopting a wide range of measures at all levels to protect and assist children.
During the pandemic it has become clear how important digitalisation is in schools, which is why the federal and state governments are together mounting a huge effort to push ahead with digitalisation in schools.
What is the German government doing to support children during the pandemic?
To mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, the German government has adopted numerous measures to support families including:
- the child bonus (300 euros per child), which was paid out in September and October
- offsetting parent’s loss of earnings when they have to look after their children at home as a result of the pandemic
- doubling the tax-free allowance for single parents
- ensuring easier access to supplementary child benefit – what is termed the emergency supplementary child benefit,
- modifying parental allowance
- the emergency equipment programmes to provide digital devices for disadvantaged school pupils and to provide teachers with digital equipment. The Digital Pact for Schools has been topped up twice, by a sum of 500 million euros each time, bringing the total provided by the federal government to 6.5 billion euros.
You will find more information about the COVID-19 measures here.
What else is the German government doing for children?
Good conditions for families also help children. That is why the German government has done a great deal in this area to help families and thus provide a sound environment in which children can grow up.
Easing the financial burden on families
Child benefit: Parents receive child benefit for every child, irrespective of their income. This financial support is provided for all children until their 18th birthday, or up to the age of 25 provided the child is in education or training. To further ease the burden on families, the German government will raise child benefit by 15 euros as of 2021. Parallel to this, the tax-free allowance for children will rise accordingly.
Parental allowance: The parental allowance is an important factor when parents want to be with their newborn child and take time off work for a while or work fewer hours as a result. There are three variations of the allowance: Basiselterngeld, ElterngeldPlus and Partnerschaftsbonus. The German government has recently reformed the parental allowance system to allow families greater flexibility in organising their professional and family commitments.
In addition to child benefit and parental allowance, numerous other provisions also help families. Families with statutory health insurance, for instance, can include their children in their health insurance contract free of charge; an additional tax-free allowance applies for single parents.
Fighting child poverty
Supplementary child benefit: Supplementary child benefit plays an important part in the fight against child poverty. This is available to parents in addition to child benefit if their income is not sufficient to meet the needs of the family. Under the provisions of the Strong Families Act (Starke-Familien-Gesetz) the German government raised the rate of supplementary child benefit, and simplified the system. Supplementary child benefit is approved for a period of six months and totals up to 185 euros per child. As of 1 January 2021, it will rise by 20 euros to a total of up to 205 euros per child.
Advance maintenance payments: Single parents are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Advance maintenance payments allow the German government to support the children of single parents who receive only irregular maintenance payments or no maintenance payments at all from the child’s other parent. The advance maintenance payments are calculated on the basis of minimum maintenance, which in turn is calculated on the basis of the essential needs of the child. Since July 2017, advance maintenance payments have been available for children up to their eighteenth birthday. As of 1 January 2021, it will rise by between 9 and 16 euros.
Extending child care services and all-day schools and nurseries: It has been proven that children are at least risk of poverty when both of their parents work and are able to share their professional and family commitments as they find most appropriate. The parental allowance is an important enabling factor. Parallel to this, the German government is investing in more places at nursery level, to make it possible for both parents to work. At the same time, the German government is pushing ahead with moves to expand all-day education and child care services for primary school pupils. Before the end of this year, the first 750 million euros of the total of 3.5 billion are to be disbursed.
Improving education and participation
Good Nursery Act (Gute-Kita-Gesetz): The German government has set itself the goal of sustainably improving the quality of early childhood education and easing the burden on low-income families. To this end, it is supporting the federal states under the provisions of the Good Nursery Act, and providing a total of 5.5 billion euros by 2022.
Campaign to recruit skilled educators for nursery level: Good early childhood education and care needs highly qualified and highly motivated experts. To attract young people to the profession and to ensure they remain in the profession, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs will be providing federal states and local facilities with about 300 million euros by 2022 within the framework of the nationwide campaign to recruit skilled educators.
Education and participation package: Under the education and participation package, the German government supports low-income families and assumes some or all of the costs of field trips, school or nursery lunches, or membership fees for sports clubs. Under the Strong Families Act (Starke-Familien-Gesetz), the German government has again upgraded the services available under the education package and now provides, for instance, 150 euros a year for individual school equipment and requirements. Up to 2.5 million children and young people benefit from the education and participation package.
Strengthening the rights of children and young people
Children and youth media protection: To afford children and young people better protection against the hazards posed by social media and the internet in general, the German government has reformed the Children and Youth Media Protection Act (Kinder- und Jugendmedienschutzgesetz). In future, internet intermediaries will, for instance, be obliged to protect children under the age of 18 against cyber-bullying, sexual harassment and financial traps.
Child and youth welfare law: In addition, the German government is working to revise and enhance child and youth welfare law, as set out in the coalition agreement. The aim is to put in place an effective assistance system, which strengthens families and protects children.
On 20 November 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its key message is that every child in the world has the right to grow up in a protected environment, to have its development fostered and to participate in the life of society. 192 states have ratified the Convention. In Germany it has been in force since 1992. Germany actually celebrates World Children’s Day on 20 September.