The Estonian Bar Association finds that amendments to child allowance and large family benefits proposed by Isamaa fail to ensure equal treatment of children as sums differ too much based on number of children.
Draft legislation agreed in the coalition to alter child and family benefits will considerably and groundlessly deepen the difference between benefits paid to families with one or two children and those with three or more, Katrin Orav, head of the association's family rights committee, pointed out in a letter to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
"We find that planned changes to benefits do not ensure equal treatment of children," the bar's representative wrote. "If families with one or two children will be paid child allowance of €80 per child, state support for those with three children, for example, will amount to €287 ((600+80+80+100)/3). In this example, the difference is more than €200 per child," Orav said.
The Estonian Bar Association goes on to note that it is not clear from draft legislation whether and to what extent expenses tied to taking care of, bringing up and educating a single child are greater in families with three or more children versus those with one or two. "The potential need to buy and maintain a larger abode or means of transport cannot justify such a stark difference in benefits per child," the letter reads.
Cost of living affects all families
The bill also prescribes annual indexation of the large families benefit starting in 2024, while no indexation is prescribed for the child allowance or other family benefits.
"Indexation of just the large family benefit does not ensure equal treatment of children and families. Increased cost of living has an effect on all family benefits, not just the large families measure. Other family benefits will also increasingly fall behind the cost of living from one year to the next."
The association is also critical of the planned amendment to the Family Act that fails to increase the contribution of parents paying child support. "The bill seems to presume that parents who live separately do not participate in raising children and that their participation should be limited to making alimony payments. A solution where the large families benefit only supports the coping of the parent who receives the support sum cannot be considered to be in line with principles of equal treatment."
The fact that children increasingly tend to spend an equal amount of time with both parents has been overlooked, the association's representative said.
The Supreme Court has also pointed out that it cannot be considered legally sound when support when determining alimony payments of one of the parents is calculated differently for families of three children and more and those with one or two children.
Promises in the coalition agreement:
We will pass legislation by November 1 to hike support measures meant to ensure the coping of families with children starting from January 1 as follows:
- the first and second child allowance will reach €80 per month
- single parent benefit to be hiked to €80 per month
- the large family benefit will be hiked to €600 per month for families of 3-6 children and €800 per month for those with seven or more children
- the large family benefit will be indexed based on the pension index starting in 2024
- the large family benefit expires gradually, with the support sum dropping by 1/3 when the oldest child turns 24 and the same model applied to the next child etc.
Editor: Marcus Turovski