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Millions of People Classed as “Benefit Cheats”

Translated Friday 3 November 2006, by Carol Gullidge

Socio-economy

Car and home owners claiming state benefits are to be penalised if France’s Right-wing government succeeds in pushing through a new amendment; innocent people who have worked hard all their lives stand to be treated as benefit fraudsters if they fall on hard times and need to claim benefits...

The government intends to use a scandalous amendment to withdraw social security benefits (RMI), national health cover (CMU), and Single Parents’ Allowance (API) from beneficiaries who own their own homes or vehicles.

Utterly savage and a threat to the most vulnerable members of society, this is a real about-turn in the benefits system, which the Right-wing majority at the French National Assembly is planning to sneak through Parliament via the 2007 Social Security budget. On October 24, Xavier Bertrand, Minister of Health, had warned of his intention to implement more rigorous checking of their “assets” as a means of attacking cheating by those entitled to social security, free national health care, or family allowances.

This motion set the alarm bells ringing for the communist MPs the following day, when it was tabled[1] in a last-minute amendment adopted in committee by the Chamber of Deputies at the Palais-Bourbon. According to this amendment, presented by the government itself, it is a process for the “determination of the right to benefits” by means of an “all-inclusive evaluation of elements related to rate of expenditure,” including “the number and value of motor vehicles, motorbikes, the rental value of real estate owned by or available to them, benefits in cash or in kind served by a third party, and the frequency and cost of overseas travel...”

To put it plainly, this means that an employee who suddenly loses his job and who is not eligible for unemployment benefit, or a mother bringing up her child or children on her own, could find themselves losing benefits to which they are entitled - such as income support, free national health care, or single-parent allowance - if, for instance, they own a vehicle in working order or a proper place to live.

“They are targeting millions of honest people, who will be regarded as cheats, and excluded from the benefits system; they’ll have to be out on the streets before they’re accepted back again”, warns Jacqueline Fraysse of the French Communist Party. She is planning to rally support from associations and from individual citizens, in a bid to prevent the French National Assembly from adopting this “truly outrageous measure”. The Hauts-de-Seine MP is rebelling against a “serious departure” from the concept of social benefits “which will no longer be an automatic right linked to social situations and dependent on resources, but classed as a privilege, handed out arbitrarily, depending on the appreciation in value of pseudo assets. One moves one step up the ladder in the cut-throat world of work, where the most vulnerable will be plunged by hounding and humiliation into simply impossible situations.” For her, the stigmatisation - as shown by the mention of “foreign travel” in the Right-wing text - is patently obvious, “clearly targeting people from the Maghreb - French or otherwise - who are receiving social security benefit after working all their lives.”

TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

Social Security benefits - RMI (revenu minimum d’insertion)

National Health cover- CMU (Couverture maladie universelle)

Single Parents’ Allowance - API (Allocation de parent isolé)

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1. "Tabled" as in UK sense (proposed), not US (adjourned)


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