Communal social aid agencies (CPAS/OCMW) can no longer oblige the unemployed to take part in community service work in return for unemployment benefits, the Constitutional Court has ruled. Community service for the unemployed has been in practice since 2016, introduced by the governing accords of the Michel government in 2014. Technically, the service is voluntary, offered by the CPAS as part of a plan of re-integration into the workforce.
However the Court ruled that employment is now the responsibility of the regions, not the federal government, since the sixth and latest stage of government reform, many of whose measures came into force as the Michel government was taking office.
The case before the Constitutional Court was brought by two French-speaking non-profits, including the League for Human Rights.
The Court held that community service offered by the CPAS was not as voluntary as the agencies argued, as it was closely linked to receiving benefits. As such it was virtually indistinguishable from paid employment. Once an unemployed person has accepted the conditions of re-integration, the work becomes obligatory rather than voluntary, with the loss of benefits a consequence of refusal.
The government has yet to respond to the Court’s ruling.
The Brussels Times