When the pension is not enough to live on

When the pension is not enough to live on

Anja schmidt leans far back in her desk chair and looks up at the ceiling of her study. "Phew, I have to think about it for a moment", says the district manager of the vdk social association. It doesn't take the 43-year-old very long at all. Just a few seconds later, the mental journey into the past is over – and her most drastic experience with poverty in old age is dredged up from her memory. "I was approached by an elderly woman who had only 300 euros per month at her disposal", tells schmidt. Because the rent for a one-bedroom apartment and utilities had to be paid from this amount, there was hardly anything left over for food.

Particularly at risk

In 2013, a single pensioner received an average of 980 euros per month. 18 euros less than needed to avoid slipping below the poverty threshold in bavaria. Each state decides separately how high to set the bar.

On the other hand, in a rough framework, an attempt is made to measure relative income poverty. For this purpose, the federal and state statistical offices calculate a so-called at-risk-of-poverty rate (AGQ). Defined according to an EU standard as the proportion of people whose income is less than 60 percent of the average income of the population. In upper franconia, the risk of slipping into poverty has risen by a full three percent. One group in particular is at risk: pensioners. In 2014, the AGQ was 22.1 percent in the over-65 age group. At 24.6 percent, the risk is even higher among women. So every fourth is affected.

Since 2007, schmidt has been supporting people in questions of social law for the vdk in kronach. Among other things, when the pension is simply not enough to live on. The biggest hurdle: pride. "I always tell them that the money is exactly what they deserve", tells schmidt. "But with some people you just can't get through."

A word that deters

Also in the case of the pensioner whose case schmidt is still presenting years later. "Nevertheless she did not want to apply for social benefits. She was too proud for that", remembers schmidt. One word in particular was probably responsible for that. Social welfare. For many of this generation simply unimaginable. Not until the 1.January 2005 was divided into unemployment benefit II and basic security for pensioners as well as pensioners with reduced earning capacity. "Since then, the willingness to apply for aid has improved somewhat.", says schmidt.

Cornelia thron has also had similar experiences. "Many people actually still talk about the 'stutze', which they definitely don't want to claim", says the managing director of the kronach caritas association. Recently, however, a pensioner came by and said "now the time for shame is over" applied for an entitlement card for the caritas social store. Apparently no exception. In recent years, the number of caritas clients receiving pensions or reduced earning capacity pensions has risen noticeably. "Many who have been trying to get by on their own realize they can't do it anymore", says throne. In rural areas in particular, pensioners were often supported by their families, but such structures are becoming increasingly rare.

While the cost of living and energy is rising, pensions are not keeping pace, and neither is basic security. The fact that the bundestag only recently passed a pension increase and that the basic income support rose from 399 to 404 euros at the beginning of the new year does not change anything. Anja schmidt thinks this is a good thing, but for single people, at least 500 euros had to be taken into account: "and that is even too low. But of course this can not be realized. I think so too. I admire everyone who manages with this low standard rate. He has my utmost respect."

Food, clothing and electricity, among other things, should be able to be paid for by the standard rate. "But there is too little left", christa korner is convinced. One cafe visit per month is barely possible, explains the social pedagogue who works for the caritas social counseling service. "But you also have to put aside money for replacement purchases, which is hardly possible", says korner. If, for example, the washing machine should give up the ghost, those affected are faced with a problem.

With his 980 euros, the average pensioner is just below the poverty risk threshold, but has considerably more at his disposal than some of his contemporaries would wish for. According to caritas, only those who receive less than 760 euros a month from their bank statement have a chance of receiving basic welfare benefits. "In any case, you should file an application", says korner. "He can't do more than be rejected."

"An unpredictable benchmark"

The vdk social association helped with 124 applications last year. "Most of the time it is granted", reports anja schmidt. "But perhaps not as much as the applicant had imagined." Cold rent in the kronach district is subsidized to a maximum of 286 euros. How much of the 404 euros in basic security a pensioner receives also depends on how far he scrapes the threshold of 760 euros. "This is of course a very general calculation, but it is an approximate value. In the end, it always depends on the individual case," says, says korner.

Last year, the district office in kronach spent a total of 541,978 euros on basic welfare for exactly 179 seniors. So on average 252 euros. "In 2014, a similar amount was paid out", says district chamberlain gunter daum. "But we get the money fully reimbursed by the federal government".

In the past few years, the share taken over by the federal government has risen steadily, until since 2014 the county no longer has to bear any costs for this item.

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