Means-tested minimum income
The means-tested minimum income (BMS) is designed to support all those persons who cannot manage to earn a living themselves.
BMS was introduced on 1 September 2010 and replaced the social assistance programme which was regulated differently by each province. In 2016 it amounts to EUR 837.76 (per month) for people living alone and EUR 1,256.64 (per month) for those co-habiting and EUR 150.80 for children. In addition, claimants without health insurance cover are also registered for health insurance.
The figures given are the minimum standards. The minimum standards of the provinces can be higher (e.g. for children or additional benefits related to housing).
BMS can also be applied for when one's own income and assets do not suffice to cover the costs of a nursing home.
An entitlement to the means-tested minimum income is given if a person does not have sufficient financial security through other means (e.g. income, benefits from social insurance, maintenance, etc.) or assets.
The receipt of means-tested minimum income is linked to having a right to permanent residence. In this way, so-called benefit tourism is avoided.
Persons who are able to work
Those who are capable of work must be prepared to take on a job. If a reasonable job is not accepted, up to half of the benefit can be lost. In exceptional cases the benefit can be withdrawn completely.
There are exceptions for those capable of work who:
- Have reached the normal retirement age according to the General Act on Social Insurance
- Have care obligations towards children under the age of three and cannot take on employment because they have not suitable care options
- Are the main carer for family members in need of care from care Stage 3
- Support and accompany seriously ill or dying children
- Who are in training which began before their 18th birthday (does not apply to university degrees).
Use of one's own assets
With a few exceptions, one's own assets and income have to be used up before a BMS benefit can be claimed.
The following assets do not have to be liquidated:
- Objects used for exercising a profession or for satisfying reasonable intellectual or cultural needs
- Vehicles which are required for work or due to a disability, or due to a lack of other transport infrastructure
- Household items (to a reasonable extent)
- Voluntary contributions received by non-statutory welfare organisations or a third party which supplement social assistance but to which the recipient has no legal right - unless they reach an extent or duration which would make the BMS unnecessary (e.g. food vouchers)
- Benefits provided in accordance with the Family Burdens Equalisation Fund Act (e.g. family allowance) with the exception of those from the family hospice leave hardship fund
- Long-term care benefit or similar benefits (except in the case of caregiving relatives).
There is also an allowance of savings amounting to five times the minimum standards for single persons (in 2016 this was €4,188.79). A claim will be registered in the land registry against housing which is occupied by the person and therefore does not have to liquidated, but only after a six-month ‘grace period' has passed.