This Wednesday, Emonts Claude and Michel Colson, presidents of the Federation of Wallonia CPAS and the Brussels CPAS respectively, said they believed the three-year limitation on unemployment/integration benefits will put huge strain on an already structurally underfunded CPAS. The two representatives also point out that not all of the unemployed that will be struck off will then be entitled to the social integration benefit (revenu d’intégration sociale), and they fear “explosive social situations”
In 2011, the Di Rupo government decided to limit unemployment benefit to three years for graduates unable to find a job. January 1st, 2015 marks the 3-year anniversary of implementation of the measure, meaning its effects will be kick in as of that date.
According to the National Employment Office (ONEM), 16,900 people will reach the end of their entitlement this coming Thursday. The Forem, however, claims 30,364 Walloons will be affected, whereas Actiris places the number of Brussels residents losing their entitlement at 4,694.
“Nobody actually knows exactly how many people will be affected. We can only give ball-park figures,” says Claude Emonts (PS). “We expect that approximately 30% of those struck off will not approach their CPAS and that 30% of those who do will be unsuccessful in their benefit application,” said a Walloon CPAS representative. “We’ll know more on Monday but February will probably see the biggest influx of applications.”
“What is clear is that there will most definitely be ‘casualties’, crisis situations for some people that the CPAS will not be able to ‘make right’,” says Michel Colson (FDF). Some of those coming to the end of their entitlement period, especially people cohabiting, will not fulfil the necessary criteria to be awarded an income-replacement wage and will suddenly be dealing with a drop in their available finances.
“Some may fall into debt and, for the CPAS, these people represent another wave of people requiring assistance via other benefits, for example via fuel aid or healthcare assistance,” predicts the former president of Watermael-Boitsfort CPAS. He also fears that, although temporary hosting centres have been set up and additional staff are at the ready, some CPAS, already at bursting point, will be unable to meet the set deadlines they have been given to process applications.