Alda Greoli, Walloon minister for social action, has expressed “regret” at the decision by Famiwal, one of the agencies that administer family benefits in the region, not to make a 10-euro payment in compensation to families whose benefits arrived late at the start of the month because of an administrative mix-up. Families were due to receive their benefits for January by 8 February at the latest. However the bank that pays out the benefits, Belfius, only made the transfer in time to those families whose own accounts are with Belfius. For those banking with other banks, the delay meant they were paid only from 11 February.
As Greoli (photo) pointed out at the time, the end of the payment month is the most difficult time for families on low incomes, including those eligible for benefits. That the delay involved a weekend only made matters worse. The mistake – it remains unclear whether the fault lay with Famiwal or Belfius – affected some 120,000 families, of whom 30,000 are considered to be in a particularly vulnerable situation.
However despite an earlier commitment, the board of Famiwal met on Friday in Charleroi to examine the question, and found that its legal experts had advised that there was no legislative basis for the offer of compensation, and that a pay-out to the families affected would create discrimination against those who received their benefits on time.
In a statement, Greoli said the decision was properly Famiwal’s to take, but regretted “that a humane and social gesture could in the end not be made towards the families affected, particularly the most disadvantaged among them.”
The families, in the meantime, will be holding their breath at the end of the first week of March, to see if the error repeats itself, leaving them unpaid over another weekend.
The Brussels Times