Minister: Delaying on family benefits not agreed upon in coalition deal

Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa).
Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Coalition partner Isamaa does not agree with Social Protection Minister Signe Riisalo's (Reform) plan to out off to 2025 offering support to large (three or more children) families, up to the age of 23 inclusive. Minister of Jusice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) says the coalition agreement inked in July does not include any such allowance for a delay, and says she wants the amendment to be written into the Family Benefits Bill, in the process of being amended.

In short, the above bill contains different provisions to the coalition agreement, as reported by ERR News.

Minister Danilson-Järg gave an interview to ERR's Madis Hindre on the matter on Tuesday, which follows in its entirety.

The draft for raising family allowances does not mention that point in the coalition agreement whereby families with children will also receive support in respect of children up to the age of 23.Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) says she will come up with a new draft in December, which will also outline the smooth withdrawing from this support. Riisalo has also emphasized that it is not viable to put this system into operation before 2025. Is this the common will of the three coalition partners?

No it certainly is not. Within the coalition agreement, all those aspects to be altered regarding subsidies for families with children were agreed upon, and the smooth exit was also arranged. It is not specifically stated there that it would be somehow resolved later or in some other way.

This distinction was made only in terms of the indexation of support for families with children. It was agreed that this would apply from 2024. However, other changes still had to enter into force on the first of January next year. This bill is certainly not quite what the coalition agreed upon.

However, in this sense, there is no problem, since it concerns a circle of coordination. Certainly, on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, we are drawing attention to the fact that one important aspect has been left out here, while we will likely offer our solution to that.

One side of the matter is that this provision would still be included in the current law. Implementation is the other side to that. If any kind of obstacles arise here, and the deadlines that were promised earlier cannot be guaranteed, then the leaders of the coalition parties will have to negotiate with each other. 

It doesn't matter either to people when something becomes a law, but is just just a part of the same implementation. Riisalo says that this change requires a whole series of tech developments, and that its organization requires at least one million euros in funding. Does Isamaa agree with the amendment entering into force in 2025?

No, [the party] is definitely not willing to put it off for a few years right now. This doesn't seem plausible at all. I understand that IT development takes time, but it surely doesn't seem realistic that it could drag on for several years. I think that here it is still necessary to review, and negotiate how it might be possible to arrange this work in such a way that these things can be completed more quickly.

Certainly, as Minister of Justice also, I cannot support this idea that changes to the same legislation be made a few months apart. This burdens both executive and legislature, and is certainly not in line with legislative best practice. In general, Isamaa certainly stands for ensuring that the coalition agreement is fulfilled in the form upon which it was agreed.

According to Signe Riisalo, the amendment was not inserted into the bill at present, as there are still a lot of things which have not been discussed. She emphasized that these changes, which will affect the people and the state budget in the coming year already, must be enacted into law in parallel with the state budget negotiations, meaning this bill we are discussing was born at supersonic speed. According to her, there was simply no time left for any unresolved issues.

I think that if there are any issues along these lines, these can actually be resolved during the bill's approval round, and also in the later procedures. However, in this sense, I do not agree that these provisions cannot be written there whatsoever.

I am putting forward one very important question. When the deadline for the entry into force of this point of the law comes, and, for example, what can a family with children aged 13, 17 and 22 expect in 2025? Will this family also start receiving large family benefits again in accordance with the new system, or will the new system only apply to those families whose children are all minors at the time the new law enters into force?

Isamaa's position is that then the allowance will be paid to all. I must stress that this is a family allowance, that is, this allowance is not paid to the children themselves, but is certainly paid to the families that raised said children.

This has been somewhat vaguely reported in the media, that an allowance is not paid to this 23-year-old 'child', but to his or her parents, who have invested a lot of their money and time in raising them up to that age and who may have had to purchase a bigger house to raise their children in, and when the child has just moved out of the house, so they don't see it, but they still have to maintain the larger house.

Does what is contained in the draft bill and what is not come as a surprise to you?

This has been discussed. Signe Riisalo has expressed her opinion that they cannot make these provisions in the draft so quickly and leave it for some kind of next stage.

In fact, they initially planned to postpone the provisions related to indexing and bring them out only in December. However, they have now included them in the bill. But if they really felt that they could not write down the provisions aimed at a smooth exit, we can certainly help them out here, and come up with them ourselves during the coordination round.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR Radio News, Madis Hindre

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