Justice chancellor: Family Benefits Act does not clash with Constitution
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has not found discrepancies with the Constitution in the new Family Benefits Act as paying large families more in the way of support helps anticipate problems coping.
Madise's bureau was contacted by a person who finds that the gap in benefits for families with two children and those with three or more children is too wide. They said that this results in unequal treatment of families and expressed concern that the new coalition agreement aims to widen the gap further.
The justice chancellor wrote in her reply that large families receive special attention from the central and local governments. This is understandable as having to take care of many children could interfere with earning an income where parents might be forced to give up working either partially or altogether.
"Which families are to be considered large and how exactly to support them is not provided by the Constitution and is up to the Riigikogu to decide. Therefore, we are largely dealing with a political choice, which the justice chancellor can comment on in exceptional cases where fundamental rights of persons have been violated," Madise wrote.
She added that offering large families bigger benefits can help prevent trouble coping.
"Therefore, paying large families bigger benefits is not unconstitutional."
Madise remarked that it remains somewhat unclear how the new government's coalition agreement will be executed.
"According to the current law, persons up to 16 years of age are entitled to child benefits. The benefit it extended to 19 years if the person is studying or until the end of the academic year in which the person turns 19. Planned family benefits hikes in the coalition agreement are unclear on whether this age limit will be hiked and based on what grounds, or whether 19-24-year-old children will be counted as members of a large family in calculating the large family benefit even though they are no longer eligible for the child benefit," the justice chancellor wrote.
What does the coalition agreement say?
We will by November 1 pass legislation to notably increase the following benefits starting from January 1, 2023 to ensure the ability to cope of large families and to value families:
- the benefit for the first and second child will reach €80
- the single parent benefit will reach €80
- the large family benefit will reach €600 in the case of three to six children and €800 for seven and more children
- the large family benefit will be indexed based on the pension index starting in 2024
- exit from the large family benefit will be gradual – when the oldest of three children turns 24, the benefit will be reduced by one-third, with the same model applied to consecutive children.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski