The news was a bombshell: the number of penalties imposed on hartz IV recipients between august 2011 and july 2012 was 1.017 million. In the district of lichtenfels, too, the number of hartz IV recipients who were penalized and therefore received less money has risen in recent years.
Managing director wolfgang franz and his 40 or so employees at the lichtenfels job center are concerned about around 1,500 people who are currently receiving hartz-IV benefits. "Customers" he calls them and by no means all of his customers are unemployed, franz emphasizes – that is currently around 770 people in the district. Among the hartz-IV-recipients there are also sick people, people who are in further education, or women who are on family leave. What they all have in common is that they are needy. Officially recognized by the social code II.
Fewer hartz IV recipients
Wolfgang franz had reason to rejoice. The number of his customers is declining. Just four years ago, the job center in lichtenfels had over 2,400 people to look after. Today there are almost 1000 people less. Wolfgang franz could rejoice, but he does not. Because no one can make rough jumps to his customers, the job center's managing director says. The hartz IV standard rate is 364 euros for a single person – that doesn't leave much left over at the end of the month. With a serious expression on his face, he says: "every unemployed person is one too many. Our job is to find work for our customers when they are unemployed."
And that is exactly what franz and his employees apparently do with meticulousness. At least this explains the increase in the number of penalties imposed on hartz IV recipients by the lichtenfels job center. Within three years it increased by about 60 percent to 766 penalties in the calendar year 2011. And for this year it does not look better for the customers of the jobcenter. In the first half of the year alone, they received 485 cuts in social benefits.
What they are penalized for? "We agree with the customer on an activity that he has to perform in the interests of integration. If he doesn't, respectively, for no reason, then he will be sanctioned", explains franz. This happens, for example, "when we have to present a job to someone and invite him or her to an appointment, and he or she doesn't show up without excuse."
766 fines in the past calendar year
This case accounts for the lowen share of the sanctions, in the last year, this accounted for almost 75 percent of all punishments. With the consequence that those affected receive ten percent less money from the job center for three months. It is less common for someone to turn down a job from the outset or to drop out of a qualifying training program prematurely. These cases accounted for around 20 percent of the 766 sanctions in 2011. The penalty is higher: 30 percent less money for a quarter of the year for those affected. Repeat offenders face even harsher penalties: "this can even lead to the loss of benefits. But then food vouchers are issued." But fixed costs such as rent are not affected by this.
It depends on the labor market, says wolfgang franz, that the job center issues more penalties. If he had no vacancies, he could not make anyone an offer of employment. And without a job offer, there is usually no sanction. "In addition, we will be able to look after our customers more intensively", which is due to the fact that their number is declining, explains franz. "We have stepped up our efforts." So his employees could invite hartz IV recipients more frequently. Wolfgang franz doesn't want to speculate on why his customers apparently don't appreciate it.