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French Court backs ‘voluntary work for benefits’ idea

People on France’s most common welfare benefit, the revenue de solidarité active RSA, may be required by their department to do ‘voluntary’ work after a ruling by the country’s highest administrative court.

However, the Conseil d’Etat said only people with a ‘personalised’ contract with the department would be affected and the work must be designed to improve their chances of getting a job while not hindering them from looking for work.

The ruling came after Haut-Rhin department decided in 2016 that anyone receiving RSA would have to volunteer to work seven hours a week or face having the benefit withdrawn. 

It has since changed its system so that from September last year,  claimants are now simply ‘encouraged’ to enter into contracts to agree to do voluntary work, and it says that 800 people have done so, with “positive results for all.”

The department coun­cil in Alsace told Connexion: “We are very happy with this decision.

“Through this policy we are opening the way for a new politics of solidarity so everyone can find their place in society.”

RSA is the most common benefit in France, with 2.5 million recipients, and it raises the minimum disposable monthly income for a single person to €550 or €943 for a lone parent with one child.

Many of those receiving RSA are workers in low-paid jobs, and the ruling came as welfare benefits moved into the political spotlight after President Macron’s office released an ‘informal’ video of a discussion he had at the Elysée with his close advisors.

In it, the president complains that under the existing system the poor, and people who become poor, are given ‘crazy money’ pognon de dingue in benefits but still remain poor.

In total, some seven million people receive benefits of one kind or another in the country, about 11% of the population.

The government denied media reports that it was looking to cut €7 billion from social security budgets from 2021, but Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said it was looking at ways to reorganise the system to make it more efficient.

She said some of the benefits (and there are dozens) were too complex to claim and administer and did little to help recipients move out of poverty.

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