The current situation - and the goals of the Federal Government
Families hold our society together. They are at the centre of the policies of the Federal Government. The aim is to create a framework that will enable families to live their lives according to their own ideas and wishes.
Therefore, in this legislative period the Federal Government has set the following priority areas in family policy:
- easing the financial burden on families
- making family life and work more compatible
- providing low-income families with more support and combating child poverty
- improving benefits for education and participation for children from needy families
- continuing support for the states to create more kindergarten places
- improving the quality of kindergartens
- enhancing the childcare profession
- providing relief for those who care for family members
- establishing a legal right to all-day childcare in primary schools
These goals tie in with existing family policy measures:
For example, there is already support for all families through child benefits (Kindergeld), parental leave (Elternzeit) and parental benefits (Elterngeld). To provide better support for low-income families, who would otherwise be reliant on basic social security (Arbeitslosengeld II) without the existing benefits, there is a children's allowance (Kinderzuschlag) - in addition to child benefits (Kindergeld). Single parents who receive no or irregular child support payments from the other parent for their child can apply for advance payment of child support (Unterhaltsvorschuss).
Through needs-based childcare, parents can better combine work and family life - which is often the main prerequisite for mothers and fathers to work. Therefore, the Federal Government has provided massive financial assistance to the states for years, for the creation of kindergarten places. However, early childhood education and care also requires highly qualified and motivated specialists. The Federal Government therefore supports various state initiatives and pilot projects for the qualification of re-entrants and lateral entrants to the profession.
This is what we have achieved so far…
…for families in general
- In order to provide additional relief for families, the Federal Government has increased child benefits (Kindergeld): in the first step, which came into effect in July 2019, this has risen by ten Euros per month per child. In 2021, this will increase by a further 15 Euros. At the same time, the child tax allowance has risen accordingly. This benefits a total of 17 million children and their parents.
- Almost all parents want more flexible working hours. In particular, mothers with a low number of working hours per week would often like to work more, after a part-time phase. Previously, the legal entitlement to part-time work only envisaged an unlimited period of part-time work. Since 1 January 2019, the new law on temporary part-time (Brückenteilzeit) work also allows employees to work part-time for between one and five years, and then return to their previous working hours.
- The reform of the adoption law leads to comprehensive and good advice, both for natural parents and adoptive parents, as well as children - and also for step-families.
…for low-income families and single parents
- With the Strong Families Act (Starke-Familien-Gesetz) the Federal Government restructured the children's allowance (Kinderzuschlag) in two steps: already as of 1 July 2019, it has increased from 170 Euros to 185 Euros per month per child. As of 1 January 2020, the upper income limits are removed. As a result, even families with a somewhat higher income can receive the children’s allowance. Since children’s income - for example from child support payments or a training allowance - are now only taken into account on a pro-rata basis, children of single parents are also effectively supported by the benefits.
- Needy families receive education and participation benefits (Bildungs- und Teilhabeleistungen) for their children. The Strong Families Act (Starke-Familien-Gesetz) has improved these benefits since 1 August 2019: the amount for school supplies and the monthly amount for social and cultural activities have been increased, the lunches in kindergartens and schools as well as the school pupil tickets for public transport are now free of charge, and the costs of learning support are now covered - not only for children at risk of repeating the school year.
- Single parents who receive no or irregular child support payments from the other parent for their child can apply for advance payment of child support (Unterhaltsvorschuss). The amounts payable have increased as of 1 January 2020: depending on the age of the child, the advance payment of child support now ranges between 165 and 293 Euros per month per child.
- The Federal Government has set the goal of permanently improving the quality of early childhood education, and providing relief for low-income families. Thus, it is providing support for the states through the Good Nursery Act (Gute-Kita-Gesetz) with a total of 5.5 billion Euros until 2022. Each state decides for itself how to use the resources provided by the Federal Government - for example for longer opening hours, additional staff, targeted language support, or lower fees. In addition, since 1 August 2019, low-income families no longer have to pay kindergarten fees.
- Through the federal programme "Campaign for specialist early childhood educators" (Fachkräfteoffensive für Erzieherinnen und Erzieher), the Federal Government is making around 300 million Euros available to states and local institutions until 2022. The aim is to attract young people to the childcare profession, and to retain existing specialists.
…for caring for relatives
- Adult children are only required to make maintenance payments for their parents in need of care, if their gross annual income exceeds 100,000 Euros. For this purpose, the Federal Government has passed the Act to Reduce the Burden on Families (Angehörigen-Entlastungsgesetz).
And this is what we are going to do next
An important focus will be on the expansion of all-day childcare in primary schools. All-day educational and childcare offerings support primary school children, and help their parents to make family life and work more compatible. As the demand for these offerings has not yet been met, the Federal Government will provide the states with a total of two billion Euros to expand all-day care in the years 2020 and 2021. By 2025, the Federal Government wants to introduce a legal right to all-day childcare for children of primary school age.
Another important intention: in future, family benefits should be applied for simply, easily and quickly online. "The citizens shouldn’t have to move, only their data" - is the underlying idea. In a first step, in future the child benefits (Kindergeld), parental benefits (Elterngeld) and children’s allowance (Kinderzuschlag) should be applied for nationwide in an online and paperless process. The goal is the complete digitalisation of all family benefits.