The Flemish parliament approved on Wednesday evening family-allowance reforms scheduled to enter into effect in 2019 in Flanders. The majority coalition, comprising the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party and Open-Vld, voted in favour. The opposition Groen (Ecologist) Party and Socialistische Partij-Anders (Sp-a, Socialist Party-Differently) voted against, while Vlaams Belang abstained.
Currently, the size of a family’s allowance depends on the number and ages of children in the household. Families receive 92 euros a month for the first child, 170 euros for the second, and so on. The allowances are also higher for older children. However, this system will change come 1 January 2019. From then on, Flanders will offer households a fixed rate of 160 euros per month for each child, plus additional allowances for needy families and education grants.
The opposition Socialists and Ecologists feel the Government should have used the global annual budget of 3 billion dollars earmarked for these allowances to fight child poverty more effectively. The ruling coalition, on the other hand, feels that the new system will help reduce the risk of people sinking into poverty.
Structurally, Flanders will have, from next year, a public operator and four private institutions in charge of ensuring fast, accurate payment of allowances.
The latest state reform has transferred responsibility for family allowances to the regions. The new system takes effect in Brussels and Wallonia in 2020.
Wallonia’s parliament was the first, in February last, to approve the new system of payment, licensing of private disbursement agencies and organizing of public funds.
Wallonia plans to introduce a flat rate of 155 euros for children up to 18 years old and 165 euros for those above the age of 18, plus additional allowances depending on two income ceilings: 55 euros per child for households earning less than 30,000 euros per year, and 25 euros for those grossing 30,000 to 50,000 euros annually.
Other additional allowances are planned for large families, households with a disabled parent, children with disabilities, orphaned children etc.
In Brussels, the partners in the majority coalition agreed before the Easter vacation on a system that will take effect in 2020. Unlike the other two regions, Brussels will switch all children to the proposed new system of allowances. The base rate will be 150 euros, a little less than in Flanders and Wallonia, but the additional social and age-related allowances will be larger and more varied. A stand-still arrangement will be built in to make sure no beneficiary ends up worse off that he or she currently is.