Social benefits: More than half a million minors owe the state

You cannot help it, but more than 570.000 minors owe the state. The state treasury's claims against the children and adolescents amounted to 192,1 million euros at the beginning of April Federal Ministry of Labor communicated in a response to an FDP request.

They arise, for example, when parents receive more social benefits than legally stipulated because, for example, they report a new job too late and then receive excessively high social benefits, such as unemployment benefit II or child benefit, and do not pay them. On their 18th birthday, their children will then receive a letter from the regional debt collection service of the Federal Employment Agency as a “gift”, with requests to start reaching the age of majority, which can amount to several thousand euros. In the case of child-related benefits, the debtors are not the parents, but their children.

The number of minors affected and the amount of claims have recently decreased. According to the ministry, a good 2020 minors were affected in 743.000, who owed the state almost 274 million euros. But those are "still shockingly high numbers," criticized FDP politician Judith Skudelny and called for reforms. Since the children are not responsible for the failures of their parents, the debt burden is an "unjustifiable burden on the children who have just reached the age of majority."

Grandma and Grandpa savings book: a danger

With regard to the problem, legal experts point to single parents who are dependent on state aid with their income together with the care task and who sometimes earn irregularly. They then received benefits from the job center. This often leads to overpayments and, consequently, claims for repayment, which in some cases accumulated into considerable mountains of debt. The part of the aid that is paid for the children must then be paid by them themselves if the parents do not do it.

There is a way out of the debt dilemma: The debts may only be demanded from the minor's own assets, which he has when he comes of age. The grandparents' savings book or financial injections for their 18th birthday, for example, are then used. The young debtors can be freed from the remaining mountain of debt.

However, this requires legal action, Skudelny points out, and many began "out of ignorance of the legal situation with repayment in small installments." Since January, the young people have been receiving an automatic information letter to inform them about this reduction in their liability for debts. But that is "not a solution to the fundamental problem," criticizes the FDP politician. As a matter of principle, children should "not be held liable for their parents' behavior in breach of duty".