Budapest: thoughts on December 24 | openDemocracy

As conditions are now set in Hungary, they require action in order not to be deprived of existing benefits, and non-compliance becomes a factor in reducing rights or in some cases, is actually criminalized. If a person does not accept the (first) public employment opportunity offered, he or she will be excluded from receiving jobless benefits or public work for three full years. If a child is absent from school for 50 hours without certification, the family allowance will be withheld for six months. More recently conditions increasingly comprise a series of behavioural rules. A long-standing rule that is now extended to new (for instance some disabled) groups is mandatory cooperation with some sort of authority. These are in principle supposed to assist reintegration, but most of them do no more than handle the administration of recipients, formally documenting their willingness to cooperate.

Since 2010 the law has also specified as part of conditionality “the obligation to insure the orderliness of the residential environment.” Local governments add whatever content they choose to this legal framework, which can go far beyond keeping the public area around the house and the garden fence in order. I will admit that, as far as I could acquaint myself with the rules adopted by local authorities, most local governments do not abuse the opportunities offered by the law. However, in areas where prejudices against the poor and Gypsies are thriving, we can find many humiliating conditions that sharply interfere with the private lives of residents. To underline the cynicism of the forces in power, poor families will find it impossible to meet some of these prerequisites. A random glance at these local decrees alights for instance on the following – “a) the height of grasses on the land may not exceed 15 cm, and b) weeds may not exceed 15 percent of the usable land and may not be higher than 15 cm.” The interference also covers the inside of the homes. One condition for aid is that, “the home must always be clean, in order and freshly whitewashed,” and that “to ensure healthy personality development the personal space in the residential areas must be a minimum of 6 square meters per person,” while other rules stipulate that “it is necessary for all persons residing in said property to maintain personal hygiene through regular care of their persons and to secure the cleanliness of personal clothing on a continuous, day-to-day level and to store same in a clean place.”

via Budapest: thoughts on December 24 | openDemocracy.

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