4.5 Initiatives promoting social inclusion and raising awareness
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Social inclusion through employment
In Belgium, there exists a Law on the Right to Social Integration from 26 Mai 2002 (Loi du 26 mai 2002 concernant le droit à l'intégration sociale). This law guarantees that every person who complies with certain conditions is entitled to be socially integratred. The Public Social Welfare Centers (Öffentliche Sozialhilfezentren, ÖSHZ) are the responsible institutions for ensuring the social integration and can implement by either:
- a contract of employment;
- an individually adapted project for social inclusion that leads within a certain time to a contract of employment;
- payment of an integration income
. The most important aforementioned conditions are:
- residence in Belgium
- generally being at least 18 years old (although there are exceptions to this requirement, for example married minor, unmarried pregnant minors or unmarried minors with at least one child at their expense)
- having the Belgian nationality or being EU citzen, or being stateless or refugee or being registered as foreigner
- not having a sufficient income
- being willing to work
As far as people of up to 25 years are concerned, they are entitled to social inclusion through an employment which suits their personal situation and capabilities within three months after having applied for the integration measure.
During the negotiations with the Public Social Welfare Center on the proposed contract of employment or the proposed project the applicant may be accompanied by a person of his choice. In addition he is entitled to a period for reflection of 5 calendar days before signing the contract and can demand to be heard by the Social Help Council (Sozialhilferat).
Social inclusion through being granted the integration income
A person waiting for the start of a contract of employment or acceptance into an individually adapted project or who cannot work for health reasons or other particular circumstances, can receive an integration income.
However, for people under 25, integration through employment or training is the absolute priority.
The award or continued payment of the integration income may be linked to the condition that the person concerned takes part in an individually adapted integration project.
The age of majority is not synonymous with the right to financial independence.
If an 18-year-old moves out of the family home, he is not automatically entitled to financial support from the Public Social Welfare Center.
Also marriage does not automatically confer the right to autonomy that makes his own home absolutely essential.
The maintenance obligation after the age of majority is fulfilled if the parents allow their student offspring to live at home and provide for him. Only if there are objective criteria such as a remote place of study, that the parents are separated or there is parent-child conflict, can the adult offspring demand maintenance. The level of maintenance does not depend on the standard of living of the parents but on the level of training and the abilities of the student.
In the event of marriage the claim is from the spouse first of all. Only if the latter cannot support his spouse do the parents have to pay for their offspring.
Thus the payment of an integration income is reduced by the amount of the maintenance to be claimed if:
- the young adult refuses to accept or request his family’s help or his family do not have the financial means to support him in his independence;
- the young adult moves out because he is striving for his autonomy without family conflict making this necessary.
Full-time students are not available to the labour market and thus do not in principle meet the statutory condition for claiming the integration income.
The Public Social Welfare Center has however the option for reasons of fairness to accept a degree programme. Here it is checked whether the degree course will contribute to improving the opportunities for professional integration. The choice of degree course depends on the young person but must be discussed with the Public Social Welfare Center.
The individual obligations of the student are laid down in a contract between student and Public Social Welfare Center.
In the case of persons 25 and over the right to social integration can be implemented differently, i.e. by:
- being granted the integration income;
- an employment (contract of employment or sharing in the costs for professional integration).
Even if it is not compulsory for persons over 25, the granting or continued payment of the integration income may be linked to the condition that the person takes part in an integration project.
As mentioned in article 5 of the Decree of 6 December 2011 (Dekret zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit), youth organisations have to meet general criteria to be eligible for funding. Those include, amongst others:
- offer and provide activities that place the needs of the children and young people at the centre of their actions;
- take into account issues of children and young people in disadvantaged life situations, of children and young people with a migration background and children and young people with a disability;
Youth Strategy Plan
In 2014 the 2ndYouth Strategy Plan (Jugendstrategieplan) covering the period 2016-2022 (originally 2016-2020) was drawn up. The second and actual Youth Strategy Plan 2016-2022 "Acting respectfully" foresees 11 actions in 4 categories:
- "Strong against Addiction",
- "Promoting diversity",
- "Political education",
- "Emotions and self-perception".
These actions include cross-border action days, developing networking, promoting projects, building awareness, offer trainings and supporting mechanisms for young people and youth workers in order to develop e.g. new approaches for promoting diversity, for social inclusion, democracy, political education and participation in the youth field.
This was the focus theme for school year 2016-2017 in the German-speaking Community. The government decided on a corresponding action plan for pupils and trainees in all educational institutions.
The chosen theme is no accident as East Belgium too is becoming more varied. As in many places in Europe, here too we come across languages, cultures and religion from all over the world. This reality must move us to action:
- to set up cultural and faith dialogue
- to get to know and respect each other
- to deal with each other impartially
and to also do this not least in view of the increased number of refugees.
Reducing prejudice, designing better coexistence, establishing togetherness. This is at the centre for intercultural and interfaith dialogue. It is intended to promote dialogue between people from different cultures in the schools of the German-speaking Community.
The aim of Info-Integration is on the one hand to give immigrants the information and support that they need to be able to make decisions and to determine their own lives (consultations) and on the other hand to support social actors, volunteers and civil society to dismantle barriers to the equal participation of people with a migration background in the life of society. This takes place by means of the organisation of further training (also on request), involvement in various working groups and networks, dialogue with the policy makers, awareness raising, etc.)
On 20 November 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. By the act of 25 November 1991 Belgium approved this Convention.
The Convention contains 54 articles and the signatory countries undertake to uphold the children's rights among other things in the following areas on
- prohibiting discrimination,
- protecting and safeguarding children’s interests
- developing their abilities
- names, nationality and protecting identity
- contact when parents separate
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- freedom of expression and assembly
- protection of private life
- access to appropriate information
- protection from abuse
- healthcare, medical services and disability
- social security
- Leisure, play and cultural activities
- child trafficking
- armed conflict
- Re-integration and re-socialisation
- Youth justice
Compliance with the provisions of the Convention is monitored by the UN treaty body, the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, which receives and evaluates the reports of the signatory countries every five years.
On 19 September 2005 a cooperation agreement between the federal state, the communities and the regions of Belgium was adopted which creates a National Commission for the Rights of the Child in Belgium. The German-speaking Community is represented in this Commission.
The main tasks of this Commission are coordinating the periodic reports to the UN Committee in Geneva, monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of this Committee and promoting the exchange of information between the various authorities and bodies concerned with children’s rights in Belgium.
Structured Dialogue: “Really boring, legally complicated”
As part of the EU Structured Dialogue in 2014 around the theme of “Empowerment of Children and Young People” the question was how children and young people can be empowered and supported in such a way that they lead an independent life and can integrate themselves on their own responsibility and with self-determination into society.
During this the Council of the German-speaking Youth (Rat der Deutschsprachigen Jugend, RDJ) organised a consultation on the following themes:
- How access to political education and to the participation of young people can be reinforced. Do they exercise their right to have a say? If not, why not?
- Addressing the right to their own values. In our society are you really free to live out the values that you consider as important or are limits set? Or are we limited by the dictates of conventions or the generally required neutrality?
- Right to one’s own body, to self-determination and sexual freedom.
Strategy for the prevention of violent radicalism in the German-speaking Community of Belgium 2016-2020 (Strategie zur Vorbeugung von gewaltsamem Radikalismus in der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft)
The government of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, in consideration of its areas of responsibility, decided, based on the increasing violent radicalism in Europe, to devote appropriate attention to the matter of radicalism.
Consequently the government appointed a coordinator for the prevention of violent radicalism whom the prime minister charged with the formulation of a strategy for the prevention of violent radicalism in the German-speaking Community of Belgium.
This strategy describes the framework conditions within Belgium and cross-border of the policy for the prevention of violent radicalism in the German-speaking Community. In addition it includes details on political control and thematic action focuses in the form of “pillars” that can have influence on concrete proposals for action. Finally the author offers a medium-term outlook on the prevention policy in the German-speaking Community.
This strategy relates to the period 2016-2020 and was coordinated with the relevant services of all political and administrative levels before publication. Systematic consultation with the same partners is to accompany the whole implementation of the planned measures.
Taking account of the political competences of the German-speaking Community, the strategy for the prevention of violent radicalism in the German-speaking Community of Belgium forms part of the guiding principles of the federal framework plan for integral security 2016-2019 as well as the federal action plan on radicalisation “Plan R”. The latter is as of 8 september 2021 being followed up by the Strategic Note Extremims and Terrorism (Strategy TER).