Ministry recommends not paying subsistence benefit to refugees in SKA care

Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Social Affairs proposed not paying subsistence benefits to those Ukrainian refugees using Social Insurance Board (SKA) housing because their accommodation includes meals. Tallinn and Tartu will be paying the minimum benefit to everyone, while other local governments are more selective.

The board offers accommodation to over 5,000 Ukrainian refugees. They usually live in various dormitories, hostels and hotels, lately also on board a Tallink ferry. People are offered hot meals three times a day.

Those who have been granted temporary protection and have no income qualify for subsistence benefits. The benefit is calculated in a way that would leave a single person holding €150 after housing expenses. The subsistence benefit is €120 for every following adult family member and €180 per child.

"We believed that they should not qualify (for the benefit). Because meals and access to emergency care are included," Kaie Pukk, adviser at the ministry's welfare services department, said.

She said that of the €150 benefit, €106 is meant for food. "It is unfair toward people who do not have state bed and board and only get the €150."

The law does not account for state bed and board. The ministry emphasizes that subsistence benefits can still be paid to everyone with temporary protection and that local governments will be compensated either way. But every payment needs to have grounds, Pukk explained.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Betina Beškina said that while the capital looks at everyone's needs separately, the minimal subsistence benefit will reach people.

"Because people have other needs," she said. "Medicines and other essentials. Whether we're talking about underwear, nail clippers or feminine hygiene products. It is not good when a person has to search and ask for these things. I believe we should give people the dignity of having a little money they can use to buy the things they need."

Tartu Deputy Mayor Mihkel Lees also said that people should get to keep €150, adding that every person's need will be weighed separately.

"While many items can come in the form of donations, being able to buy essential goods in a shop is part of maintaining human dignity. Or that even if one has board, it would be nice to buy the kids a few apples or a banana every now and then."

Kaie Pukk reiterated that the subsistence benefit is available for everyone whose needs warrant it, adding that the benefit is meant for essential goods and food.

The ministry delivered its recommendation on March 22 after which local governments have sported different approaches.

"They have paid in some cases and refused in others. It all depends on the person's needs," Pukk said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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