4.6 Access to quality services
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A homeless person is someone who, involuntarily, has no accommodation or is directly in danger of losing their current accommodation. The same applies when the accommodation is unfit for protecting human beings against severe weather conditions or if using the accommodation carries acute health risks. In these cases, homeless individuals have a claim to accommodation provided by the local authority. In some states, security and public order acts setting out the applicable rules are in place.
The local authority in which the homeless person usually lives or in which they lived two months before being provided accommodation is responsible for providing help with finding accommodation in line with Article 67 of Social Code Book XII, Assistance with special social difficulties (SGB XII, Hilfen in besonderen sozialen Schwierigkeiten). If a homeless person leaves the municipality and moves around, they lose their usual abode. In this case, the federal state – as the interregional social welfare organisation – is responsible for providing assistance.
The points of contact for homeless persons vary from local authority to local authority. They may be part of welfare office (Sozialamt), housing office (Wohnungsamt), public order office (Ordnungsamt), youth office (Jugendamt) - in the case of young people - or local social services (kommunaler sozialer Dienst). Some municipalities also have specialised units that seek accommodation for persons excluded from housing. The type of accommodation provided is generally shared accommodation. Frequently, local authorities will be able to provide special accommodation for girls and young women. Some cities offer emergency accommodation (Notschlafstellen) specifically for young people. Finally, there are many different kinds of services run by other organisations, notably independent social welfare providers.
Homeless young people – transfer of custody (Inobhutnahme)
Youth offices (Jugendämter) may take custody of minors if they request them to do so voluntarily or on the initiative of third parties, such as the police or teachers. The process of taking custody of children and adolescents is detailed in Section 42 of the Social Code Book VIII (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII). They are accommodated in a youth shelter (Jugendschutzstelle) or in a on-call foster family (Bereitschaftspflegefamilie). They may also be accommodated in another type of sheltered accommodation or, in individual cases, in a home. The youth office is also responsible for discussing the situation that led up to the transfer of custody together with the young person in question and, where possible, to resolve it.
Youth shelters accept young people around the clock who are in a personal emergency and whose return to their family, foster family, home or other youth welfare institution is not possible at the point in time in question or not advisable from an educational perspective. Youth shelters are usually run by a public-sector organisation, e.g., a local authority. They take custody usually for a short period of time until a longer-term solution is found. The duration of custody is determined jointly by the guardianship court (Vormundschaftsgericht) by consensus with the parents and the child. In cases where the child’s welfare is in danger, the guardianship court decides independently of where the child is to be placed and for how long, potentially against the parents’ wishes.
Transfer of custody vs. emergency accommodation
There is a difference between transfer of custody (Inobhutnahme) and emergency accommodation (Notschlafstellen). The latter is accommodation for adolescents and young persons of legal age. They are placed in partially sheltered residential groups of the emergency accommodation and, having determined their need for child and youth services, given other forms of assistance or assisted in taking charge of their own life, which can involve renting an apartment of their own. The youth office is obliged to consider various forms of assistance. If it is not able to provide assistance of its own accord, it must refer the child, adolescent or young adult to another counselling service or institution. Possible courses of action can be to fund a rented room or own apartment so that the young adult in question can move into a different social environment and, e.g., return to school or vocational training.
Residential homes (Wohnheime) familiarise young residents with a life off the street and should be distinguished from overnight accommodation such as emergency accommodation. Minors may not be accommodated in residential homes for adults of legal age. However, there are residential homes specifically for adolescents and young adults. Known as youth residential homes (Jugendwohnheime), they often offer vocational training to residents. Many youth offices operate a central office that assists young people in finding sheltered forms of accommodation. The requirement for this, however, is that the young person in question requires assistance from child and youth services and wishes to receive this assistance.
Counselling services assist young people in improving their situation. They advise them and help them to find a vocational training place, job or suitable school as well as better accommodation. The counsellors explore various child and youth services options and usually work closely with the competent youth offices and specialist services such as addiction counsellors, debt counsellors, legal advisors and social welfare advisors. Young people receive assistance when they run into trouble with the authorities or their parents. They have no legal claim to financial assistance in the narrow sense. In many cases, the youth offices temporarily stand in as sponsors. For instance, emergency shelters for young people accept all young people who come through the door. In such a case, the cost of accommodation and support by social workers is normally borne by the competent youth office. Applicants with an income of their own will usually be asked to contribute an appropriate amount to the overall cost.
As a rule, young adults (aged 18 and above) are usually taken care of by the youth office. Some of them may find themselves without access to services, since the authorities may be locked in a long dispute over who is responsible for providing assistance. Generally, assistance is available to young people up to the age of 21; only in certain cases will assistance be provided to individuals aged up to 27. As a rule, however, the beneficiary must be in need of assistance with developing their personality and learning to live an independent life.
Mobile youth work / street work
Young people subject to housing exclusion and homelessness may also seek help with mobile youth work organisations (Mobile Jugendarbeit) or streetworkers, in line with sections 11 Youth Work (Jugendarbeit) and 13 Youth Social Work (Jugendsozialarbeit) of SGB VIII. This target group is provided with holistic assistance, including support in resolving conflicts with their families or partners, assistance with health problems, criminal prosecution, violence, school problems or career counselling issues, correspondence with the authorities, finding an apartment or improving their accommodation. These services are funded via local authority youth budgets, state youth budgets, private funds, and the European Social Fund.
In Germany, local child and youth services and in turn, the youth offices (Jugendämter) are responsible for social support to children and young people provided this is not accounted for under the remit of Social Code Books II and III (SGB II and III) or other matrimonial or family-related services.
Social services include e. g. the payment of housing benefit (Wohngeld). Housing benefit helps low-income households to cover the costs of living. Tenants receive housing benefits in the form of rent subsidies. Owner-occupants receive housing benefits in the form of cost subsidies. Different factors affect whether and how much benefits can be claimed (total household income, number of household occupants to be counted, amount of rent eligible for subsidies etc.). Every child increases the number of household occupants to be counted and thus the level of housing benefit. Child benefits and child benefit supplements are not included as income when determining eligibility for housing benefit. Single parents receive a tax-free allowance for every child under the age of 12. Children aged between 16 and 24 earning their own income are also given a tax-free allowance in the amount of the income, capped at 600 euros a year.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes)
The legally mandated role of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is to provide counselling, carry out research, and perform public relations work. The team of advisors and lawyers provide legal information in the case of discrimination or sexual harassment, explain available options with respect to whether and how certain rights – e.g. in the areas of work, living and services – can be asserted, try to reach amicable settlements to conflicts, and provide details of local experts. The service is based on the General Act on Equal Treatment (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG). The protection prescribed by the Act applies to all individuals, regardless of their residential status.
See also Youth Wiki > Health and Well-Being
Health insurance is mandatory in Germany. Provided their parents are insured under a mandatory or voluntary statutory health insurance scheme, young people under the age of 18 are covered by a family health insurance (Familienversicherung) at no further cost. The statutory health insurance system covers medical treatments. Children and adolescents aged 18 or under are exempt from prescription fees (EUR 5).
The statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) providers pay for the cost of health screenings for young people aged 12 to 14 (known as J1). Young people aged 16 or 17 can take part in additional health screenings (known as J2). However, not all statutory health insurance providers pay for the J2 screenings.
Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung )
The Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA) also provides information and material on child and youth health to parents, experts and institutions working in healthcare, early childhood education and education, and child and youth services, but also to children and young people. Its materials and projects reflect recent research, are prepared such that they respond to the target groups in question, and are regularly evaluated and reviewed or redesigned where necessary. BZgA responds to the complex nature of personal and social factors at play in this area with a holistic, lifelong concept to promote the health of children and young people. Its activities are aligned with the life situations of children and young people, and take account of their personal choices and circumstances under which they live.
There is a dense network of counselling offices for child and youth health in Germany. They are run by various organisations, including welfare associations, organisations or local authorities. Generally, they are open to the general public, although some specialise in counselling young people. Their services are generally free of charge.
Nationwide telephone helplines
The nationwide child and youth helpline (Kinder- und Jugendtelefon), also known as the number against sorrow (Nummer gegen Kummer) - 116111 - offers confidential and free advice to children and young people seeking assistance. It can be reached Monday to Saturday from 2 to 8 pm. There is also an online counselling service through the website. The helpline is a service provided by the association Nummer gegen Kummer e.V. and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) and Deutsche Telekom AG.
Telephone counselling (TelefonSeelsorge) is a helpline for callers in crisis (0800 1110111 or 0800 1110222). It is available around the clock, free, and completely anonymous. Here, too, an e-mail, chat or face-to-face option is available. This helpline is run by associations affiliated with the two major national churches in Germany: Evangelische Konferenz für TelefonSeelsorge, Offene Tür e.V. and Katholische Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Ehe-, Familien- und Lebensberatung, TelefonSeelsorge and Offene Tür e.V. It is also funded by BMFSFJ and Deutsche Telekom AG.
The Violence against women support helpline (Hilfetelefon Gewalt gegen Frauen) is reachable under the toll-free number 08000 116016 every day, around the clock. It serves women who are victims of violence. The counselling services are anonymous and are offered in several languages. The support helpline is managed by the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA).
Specialised counselling services
Counselling services for children and young people
Many local youth offices and non-profit organisations run general counselling services on health, e.g., youth counselling, a child and youth helpline, or an emergency helpline (e.g., for victims of violence or rape).
Addiction counselling services
Addiction counselling services offer counselling on narcotics, alcohol and drug abuse as well as on gambling addiction. The state offices for addiction issues (Landesstellen für Suchtfragen) are also points of referral to addiction clinics, specialised addiction prevention units and self-help groups in the federal states. They are points of contacts and umbrella organisations for associations and organisations that are active in addiction support and prevention at the state level (with the exception of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania). Together, they form the Federal association of state offices for addiction issues (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Landesstellen für Suchtfragen).
HIV/Aids and STI counselling services
These counselling services advise sufferers, relatives, friends, coworkers and teachers who are in personal contact with HIV and Aids sufferers and who may have questions, as well as prostitutes, punters/johns and anyone seeking advice on sexually transmitted diseases. Advice is provided on prevention and testing, along with information on health, personal, professional and administrative matters relating to HIV and Aids. The public health authorities offer testing for free or for a small fee, plus, frequently, counselling. BZgA also offers a telephone helpline and online counselling on HIV and Aids.
Don’t give Aids a chance (Gib Aids keine Chance) was a campaign to prevent HIV/Aids that largely urged people to use condoms. After almost 30 years, the campaign was given a fresh image; since 2016 it has been known as Love life (Liebesleben). While Don’t give Aids a chance was clearly targeted at HIV/Aids prevention, the new campaign was extended to include other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and new target groups, including young people.
Counselling services on sexuality, partnership and contraception
Recognised counselling services on sexuality, partnership and contraception exist in most larger towns and cities. Many public health authorities also offer counselling in this field. In addition, in most larger cities in Germany there are other counselling services, including the youth office. These counselling services are also available to children and adolescents. Assistance in case of problems, e.g., violence, is provided by girls’ or women’s centres or shelters, women’s counselling offices, women’s helplines, women’s shelters, and pregnancy (crisis) counselling offices.
Pregnancy counselling services
State-recognised and -funded pregnancy counselling services provide free and where requested anonymous advice on all issues relating to pregnancy, birth, sexuality, contraception and involuntary childlessness. The counsellors have a background in social education, psychology or health and provide advice on public family services, one’s rights in the employment arena, and diagnostic possibilities during pregnancy. They also provide information on resolving conflicts triggered by a pregnancy, on support available for children with compromised health, and on methods to terminate a pregnancy. Finally, they provide active help in asserting claims, finding accommodation and childcare, continuing one’s vocational training, and finding follow-up assistance.
Prevention of abuse and counselling for victims of abuse
The portal for abuse assistance (Hilfeportal Missbrauch) supports victims, their families and other individuals who wish to support them. Local assistance services are listed in a nationwide database. The sexual abuse helpline (Hilfetelefon Sexueller Missbrauch) 0800 2255530 provides information and counselling, also anonymously.
Wildwasser.de, a nationwide network of regional independent child and youth services providers, offers socio-educational assistance to children, young people and adults who are affected by sexual abuse, and advises friends and relatives of victims, as well as experts and volunteers.
Gambling counselling services offer support and advise on gambling, addiction and treatment. Their target groups are persons susceptible to addiction, addicts, families, partners and other individuals who regularly interact with persons possibly or actually addicted to gambling.
BZgA offers an online counselling service and a free telephone helpline on gambling addiction 0800 1372700. It is available across the country and offers anonymous advice, information and emotional support for all callers who are in some way affected by gambling-related problems. There is also an online counselling service.
Counselling, self-help and treatment for eating disorders
There are professional and specialised counselling services for eating disorders that follow recognised guidelines and provide free advice and information to sufferers, relatives, friends and experts. A database run by BZgA lists the addresses of all eating disorder counselling services in Germany. There are also professionals who run their own practices and provide advice to sufferers for a charge, such as psychotherapists, alternative practitioners, and nutritionists.
An anonymous telephone helpline [+49 (0)221892031] run by BZgA is available to inform sufferers on anything relating to eating disorders and adipositas, also in emergencies.
Professional development for health care mediators available
In Germany, doctors and health care professionals are legally required to undergo ongoing training. This is on the basis of laws regarding professional chambers and health care professionals in the federal states, as well as professional codes and further training regulations issued on the basis of these laws by the chambers with the approval of the relevant state authorities. The professional chambers in the federal states offer recognised further training. The German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer) website can be used to search for further training opportunities across Germany.
The German statutory pension insurance scheme (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) also has information and advice on further medical training.
The GKV network portal (GKV-Netzwerk) has free information for employees of statutory health insurers, insurance funds and the relevant public authorities.
The online portal Kindergesundheit-info.de offers information about children’s healthy development and is a valuable source for experts.
The government supports families, children and young people in the shape of various grants and tax breaks. Among the most important of these are Among the most important of these are child benefit (Kindergeld), a tax-free allowance for children (Kinderfreibetrag), a supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag), support/maintenance (Unterhalt) and advance payment of maintenance (Unterhaltsvorschuss), housing benefit (Wohngeld), childcare costs (Kinderbetreuungskosten) and federal education assistance (BaföG):
- Child benefit: The state pays child benefit for all minors. Parents must apply for child benefit in writing. Child benefit is not based on income and is staggered according to the number of children. Since 1 January 2018, child benefit for the first and second child is 204 euros a month each, for the third child 210 euros a month, and for the fourth and any further child(ren) 235 euros a month. The entitlement to child benefit begins at birth and ends on the child's 18th birthday. If a child is in further education/training, child benefit can be extended up to their 25th birthday. Unemployed children receive child benefit up to their 21st birthday. Child benefit is paid indefinitely for children who are unable to support themselves due to a physical, mental or emotional disability. This is on the condition that the disability presents before the child's 25th birthday.
- Tax-free allowance for children: This allowance can also be claimed instead of child benefit. Unlike child benefit, the allowance for children is not paid out but is a tax-free allowance that is deducted from taxable income. The German tax office (Finanzamt) will usually check whether it makes more sense financially for a family to receive child benefit or to make use of the tax-free allowance when it processes the income tax declaration.
- Supplementary child allowance: Parents who can financially support themselves but not their children receive a child benefit supplement of up to 185 euros a month for every child living in their household. The supplement is paid on top of child benefit and, together with housing benefit, aims to prevent low-income families from having to claim unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) to make a living. To be eligible for the child benefit supplement, parental couples must earn a joint income of at least 900 euros (gross) per month, single parents at least 600 euros (gross) per month – in both cases excluding child and housing benefit. However, an income ceiling also applies. This ceiling is calculated by adding together blanket standard rates for subsistence (basic needs) and the costs of accommodation and heating. Any income and assets of the child are also taken into account when calculating the child benefit supplement. Benefits for extra needs – such as in the case of disability or pregnancy – can also be included with standard benefits. Alongside basic needs, the calculation to determine the income ceiling also includes a percentage for the parents' accommodation and heating costs.
- Support/maintenance: Every child has a basic right to receive support from its parents. Mothers and fathers can provide this support as care and upbringing or as cash in the form of maintenance. The parent with whom the child lives will usually provide their share of support in the form of the child's care and upbringing. The other parent will normally pay maintenance. There is a difference between maintenance for minors and maintenance for children of age. If the parent with whom the child does not live cannot afford to/does not pay maintenance, an entitlement to advance payment of maintenance exists under certain conditions. Up to their 21st birthday, young adults can contact the youth office (Jugendamt) for advice and help with their entitlement to maintenance.
- Advance payment of maintenance: If a parent fails to pay maintenance, the other parent is entitled to advance payment of maintenance under certain conditions. The personal income of the single parent does not matter. The advance maintenance (on top of child benefit) currently (July 2019) amounts to 160 euros/month for children under 6 years, 212 euros/month for children aged 6 to 11 years, and 282 euros/month for children aged 12 to 17 years. For the latter group advance maintenance is being paid following a change in the law as of 1 July 2017 (previously only up to 12 years).
- Housing benefit: See Social services.
- Childcare costs: Two thirds of childcare costs are tax deductible (as special expenses). For each child under the age of 14, a maximum of 4 000 euros per year can be deducted for tax purposes. Working single parents and working couples can offset childcare costs as income-related expenses or service costs. For non-working single parents and couples where only one partner works, these costs can only be offset between the ages of 3 and 6 (deductible as special expenses). However, up to the child's 3rd birthday and between their 6th and 14th birthdays, costs (under certain conditions) for home childcare can be offset for tax purposes. For children with disabilities that present before they reach the age of 25 and who are not able to support themselves, childcare costs are also tax-deductible as an extraordinary burden even after the child reaches the age of 14.
- Federal education assistance: BAföG provides financial aid to help all young people in all social and financial circumstances complete training/education in an area suited to their abilities and interests. BAföG funding is granted to university students and young people attending other further education institutes. Individual eligibility to receive financial training assistance is based on the following requirements: German nationality or a right of residence as listed under Section (8) BAföG, general suitability for the training selected, and applicants must not be over the maximum age limit. Maximum funding currently (July 2019): 735 euros per month. If the individual is a parent living in the same household as their child under the age of 10, a supplement of 130 euros per child can also be paid (Section 14b BAföG). General age limit: 35 years (for master's degree courses). In most cases, 50% of funding for students is provided as a grant and 50% as an interest-free loan. Half of the funding, but no more than 10,000 euros, must be therefore paid back (special arrangements possible).
To promote training/education and career guidance, every child and every young person has a right to the following services under Book III of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch III, SGB III): - Career counselling, career guidance, job market counselling (Sections 29 to 34 SGB III), - Placement of those seeking jobs or training (Sections 35 to 39 SGB III), - Steps to trigger and support workplace integration (Section 45 SGB III), - Career guidance schemes (Section 48 SGB III), - Help with career entry (Section 49 SGB III), - Trial employment schemes and working aids for people with disabilities (Section 46 SGB III), - Employment-readiness training (Sections 51 to 55 SGB III), - Training grants (Sections 56 to 72 SGB III), - Training grants for people with disabilities (Section 73 SGB III), - Training support services (Section 75 SGB III), - Extra-company vocational training (Section 76 SGB III), - Start-up grant (Sections 93 to 94 SGB III), - Services to promote participation in working life (Sections 112 to 116 SGB III), and - Education benefit (Sections 122 to 126 SGB III).
People with disabilities have a right to rehabilitation and participation – this includes children and young people – as well as a right to social care insurance including services for home and in-patient care, caregiver tools and technical aids; expert integration services provide advice and help both for job-seekers and for employees with disabilities and their employers. The focus is on helping school pupils with disabilities and employees of workshops for people with disabilities with their efforts to find a job on the general labour market. The expert information services also inform and advise employers on all matters connected with employing people with disabilities, in particular on removing barriers of all kinds.
Recipients of child benefit supplements and housing benefits are entitled to claim education and participation benefits. The so-called education package (Bildungspaket) consists of cash and non-cash benefits. These include: one-day school and nursery trips (actual costs), multi-day class and nursery trips (actual costs), personal school requirements (total of 100 euros/year), transport to school for pupils (actual costs), learning support (actual costs), school dinners or nursery dinners (allowance), participation in social and cultural life in the community (e.g. sports club, music lessons up to 10 euros/month).
The situation of children is influenced in particular measure by SGB II (social benefit and benefits relating to education and participation); that of young people in transition from school to training or work is impacted also by SGB III. The resulting measures serve to ensure the social integration of children and young people.
Claims can only be asserted under certain circumstances. In this regard, Section 33c of the Social Code Book I (SGB I) clearly stipulates what is known as a prohibition of discrimination (Benachteiligungsverbot).
In 2014 the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) and the Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium der Finanzen) published a joint overall evaluation report of core marriage- and family-related benefits. The evaluation looked at the following core marriage- and family-related benefits: child benefit and tax-free child allowance, parental benefit (Elterngeld), additional unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld) for beneficiaries with children, social benefit (Sozialgeld) for children, supplementary child allowance, housing benefit for households with children, free inclusion of spouses in the statutory health insurance scheme, lower contributions to the statutory long-term care insurance for parents with children relative to childless individuals, earned income splitting for married couples (Ehegattensplitting), tax credits for single parents, deductibility of childcare costs, childcare, and advance payment of maintenance for single parents. The evaluation also covered marriage- and family-related benefits in regard to old-age pensions; including the consideration of periods spent raising children when calculating statutory old-age pension payments, surviving dependents’ benefits (Hinterbliebenenversorgung), pension splitting (Rentensplitting) and allowance for children (Kinderzulage) for the Riester pension system. The evaluation shows that subsidised childcare and parental benefit are among the most effective benefits. Without the public funding that goes towards childcare, 100 000 mothers with children between 1 and 3 years of age would not be in work. The outcomes of this research serve to continue developing the family-related benefit system and to align it with the modern-day needs and desires of families.
For information about the ‘Monitoring report on the education package: Opportunities for children from families receiving supplementary child allowance’ see also General context > Main challenges to social inclusion > National surveys containing information on young people’s social inclusion.
The Family Report 2017 (Familienreport 2017) reports on current family-related trends in Germany and describes projects, initiatives and programmes in the federal government's family policy.
The federal government has therefore developed and adopted a strategy for the promotion of child health (Strategie der Bundesregierung zur Förderung der Kindergesundheit). The strategy is based on the findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS study) carried out by the Robert Koch Institute (Robert-Koch-Institut) from 2003 to 2006. This study was the first of its kind to collect extensive and representative data on the health of children and young people in Germany, their attitudes to health, and the health care available to them. The initial findings from the first follow-up, KiGGS Wave 1 (KiGGS-Welle 1), are summarised in the booklet 'The health of children and adolescents in Germany – 2013' (Die Gesundheit von Kindern und Jugendlichen in Deutschland - 2013), available at www.kiggs-studie.de. The federal government's child health strategy pulls together the various initiatives to promote child health that extend to many areas outside of the health care system, and initiates new measures.
First results of the KiGGS Wave 2 (KiGGS-Welle 2) are published in the Journal of Health Monitoring (Ausgabe 1/2018; PDF, 892 KB).