Responsibility passes from the regions to the federal government
Employment centers will be new points of contact for Ukrainian refugees
Wednesday 01.06.22 | 06:08 | to
Refugees from Ukraine have to go to the Jobcentre from Wednesday to get help. The employees of the formerly responsible social welfare offices breathe a sigh of relief. But do refugees benefit? Or are they just lining up elsewhere now? Written by Sabrina Wendling
What does “single parent” mean? What is “wealth”? It is not always easy to get acquainted with the official German language for applications. For refugees from Ukraine, it is even more difficult. “There was a huge need for advice, and we made a lot clear,” says Elena Zavlaris, director of the Employment Center at Tempelhof-Schoeneberg. “For example, under German law, women whose husbands live in Ukraine are also considered a single mother – this means that they are entitled to support services for single parents,” Zavalaris says.
In May, Ukrainian refugees in Tempelhof-Schoenberg were already invited to attend mass media events at employment centers. There they then filled out applications with the support of language brokers. Job centers and social welfare offices have been exchanging information since the beginning of May in order to avoid chaos since June 1 – when the job centers became the new point of contact for Ukrainian refugees.
Social welfare offices are overwhelmed with requests
For the state of Berlin, the responsibility of the duty station is a political success. Barely the first refugee from Ukraine arrived in Berlin at the end of February or the beginning of March, social senator Katja Kipping (left) never tires of repeating at every opportunity that the federal government feels responsible for financial assistance to refugees. The payment of benefits should not be left to the social welfare offices, ie the regions.
On the other hand, there were financial reasons: if refugees were entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act, it was the federal government that would bear the costs — which of course could only be beneficial to the state. On the other hand, it was also expected that the social welfare offices in Berlin, which were already under great pressure, would be inundated with thousands of new applicants.
Givi: Change to Career Center is a ‘quantum leap’
Berlin’s call for duty station responsibility went unheeded over several weeks and prime ministers’ conferences. The federal budget was already overstretched, and the federal government was asked to do so many times. Thus every day tens to hundreds of refugees wait in front of social welfare offices, for example in Reinickendorf and Neukölln, to register for benefits under the Asylum Seekers Act. The social responsible city councilors there from the CDU have never tired of asking for more support from the Senate. He kept pointing fingers at the federal government – until it was finally agreed at the prime ministers’ conference on April 9 that job centers would take over from June.
Berlin Governor Franziska Jaffe (SPD) doesn’t just want this to be seen as a relief to Berlin’s budget. “From an integration policy point of view, this change in the legal field is a quantum leap,” says the ruling mayor when asked by the rbb. “People who receive basic security will have access to language training, the health system and integration courses. Access to work, training and social participation is a prerequisite for successful integration,” says Jevi.
Recruitment centers do not expect long queues
The fact that refugees from Ukraine now have the Job Center as a point of contact concretely means that in the future they can receive unemployment benefit II, ie Hartz IV – or social assistance. First of all, this has the advantage that they get paid more than they get under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, where the prices are lower. With your entitlement to unemployment benefits, you will also receive partial compensation for your accommodation and heating costs. They can also apply for child benefit.
A clear improvement from the point of view of the duty station. “Now we have the opportunity not only to provide the benefits of living under one roof and from one source, but also to get straight to the topic: How can we support and regulate labor market integration?” says Ramona Schroeder. At the Federal Employment Agency, she is the head of the Department of Regional Director Berlin-Brandenburg. “Previously there were two responsible authorities, now there is only one – it is faster.”
Ramona Schroeder Don’t expect long lines. “We have been ready since the beginning of May and we are in very close contact with the social welfare offices. All twelve duty stations in Berlin and also in the state of Brandenburg are well equipped, human resources are there – so everything indicates that we are well prepared. ” The situation is similar in employment centers in Potsdam. “It is a challenge, but we also had tremendous reach during the Corona crisis, so my staff are used to such a situation. We are also in a good position in terms of people and organizing the process accordingly,” says Thomas Brinker, Managing Director of the Potsdam Job Centre.
Volunteer Refugee Aides: An Urgent Need for Information
In Berlin, Jobcenters expect 35,000 refugees from Ukraine to be eligible to apply. According to the Regional Directorate, there are about 20 thousand people in Brandenburg. Because many of them are already registered in both federal states and have the so-called fictitious certificate – that is, proof of their temporary right of residence.
These are the requirements for obtaining sponsorship at the Career Center as of June 1. “But that does not mean that these 35,000 refugees in Berlin will all apply in person. There are also children among them and their families, so we expect about half of the applications,” says Ramona Schroeder.
But what appears to be good news is viewed critically at the refugee aid association Moabit Help. In her view, there is very little information for refugees about what this change from the Social Welfare Office to the Job Center means for them and how they have to fill out all the applications at the Job Centre. “Now we need a big media campaign, and refugees need more information,” Director-General Diana Hennigs complains. “Basically you have to catch 20 years of digitization, I don’t understand why you’re printing piles of paper instead of letting people know via Instagram or Telegram.”
Mwabit Helvet: Politics has learned nothing
Moabit Help staff and volunteers support refugees in understanding and filling out applications. Sometimes that can take a day or two, says Hennigs. “We can do the most primitive things, but these are really important to society as a whole. That means there has to be political responsibility,” says Hennigs. But politics is wading in the same waters as it was ten years ago.
The ruling mayor does not agree. Politicians have learned from the mistakes of the past. In collaboration with integration senator Kipping, she is reporting to local councilors and mayors these days to discuss assistance still needed for the change process. “Now it’s about a lot of coordination and advice for those affected,” says Jevi. “We’re trying to work with civil society and also provide multilingual information and give it to people.”
The next few weeks will show whether this worked and whether the refugees from Ukraine knew what to do – or whether they were completely overwhelmed, as the volunteers feared.