The Polish Parliament, which today starts a three-day session, will discuss the government draft of a family benefits act – the so called Family 500 plus. The opposition, which has made numerous amendments to the project, is very critical.The first reading of the draft is to start at 10.05.
The law on state aid in the raising of children, introducing the educational benefit in the amount of 500 zł per child, is the flagship project of the government of Law and Justice (PiS), announced in the election campaign. It is expected that every family, regardless of income, will receive a benefit for the second and any subsequent child (until they are 18 years old). Families whose income per capita does not exceed 800 zł (or 1200 zł for children with disabilities), will also receive 500 zł for their first child.
The Ministry of Labour estimates that thanks to the 500 plus project 278 thousand more children will be born.
How much does it cost?
After consultations with relevant ministries a change has been introduced to the draft, which is beneficial from the perspective of foster parents – foster families and individuals running foster family homes will receive a corresponding benefit. Thus, after the introduction of this amendment and resignation of counting the benefit as part of a person’s income, the cost of the 500 plus programme this year alone has increased from 16 billion zł to more than 17 billion zł.
During governmental consultations the introduction of an upper income threshold was postulated; on the other hand, the introduction of an income criterion with the first child was questioned. Among others, “Solidarity” argued that the introduction of the income criterion entitling to the benefit denies the universality of this project, pointing out that only 31% of families would receive 500 zł for the first child.
In the end, after public consultations, no major changes have been made to the project. The Ministry of Finance, however, stated that it could not give a positive opinion, and the main reason is “a significant increase in expenditures in the state budget.” The project, however, was accepted by the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers.
The law is to come into force on April 1.
The opposition is critical of the project. On Friday, PO (Civic Platform) submitted their own project, according to which all parents would receive 500 zł per month for each child.
Law and Justice divides Poles, finding those of a worse kind, is also starting to divide the children, there is no consent of PO for that, we support the option of PLN 500 for each and every child – said the head of PO Grzegorz Schetyna.
The draft of PO provides that the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) would be responsible for the payment of benefits.
On Monday, the Nowoczesna (Modern) party presented an alternative to the government’s Family 500 plus project. It provides, among others, opportunities for part-time work for parents of children up to 3 years of age. The representatives of Nowoczesna have also announced their amendments to the draft of Law and Justice, among others, the introduction of an upper income threshold. Nowoczesna also wants the programme to cover single parents with one child. Another amendment seeks to “prevent surveillance by the state of those parents who would receive the money.”
PSL (Polish People’s Party) intends to propose an amendment abolishing the income criteria for the granting of benefits. Populists have also announced that they will submit an amendment, according to which the provision of child care would be provided on the basis of the “penny for penny” principle. It is now applied to other family benefits. Thanks to it, when a family exceeds the income criterion it does not lose the benefit, but receives it reduced by the amount by which the criterion was exceeded.
On Friday, February 12, the 500 plus project will be discussed by the Senate. The upper chamber does not plan to discuss any other project that day.