Starting allowance Art. 5 (e)
In para 18 of its 2006 Concluding observations the Committee recommended that Denmark reviewed its policy on social benefits for persons ‘newly’ arrived in Denmark. The Committee expressed concern that the State policy mainly affected foreign nationals – even if it formally applied both to citizens and non-citizens.
DACoRD had reported in June 2008 under Art. 2 (c) on the amendment in 2002 of the Act on an Active Social Policy30 and the Act on Integration31, Under the amendments distinctions were introduced to reduce the ordinary social assistance ‘cash benefit allowance [kontanthjælp] for persons who had not resided lawfully in Denmark for at least 7 out of the preceding eight years. Persons who do not meet the residence requirement, but otherwise satisfy the conditions laid down by the regulations, will be entitled to a starting allowance benefit [starthjælp] which is a lower cash benefit allowance than the ordinary cash benefit allowance. Families receiving the starting allowance have at their disposal only between 56 and 73 per cent of the amount of money deemed necessary to live on as a discount budget in Denmark.32
In DACoRD’s submission we cited the criticism from both Amnesty International and UNHCR recalled article 23 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which provides for the “same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals”.
DACoRD further recalled the Conclusions by the European Committee on Social Rights from 2004 where it is noted on page 20 of the report: “The Committee also notes that section 11 of the Act on an Active Social policy henceforth applies a distinction between “assistance allowance” and “starting allowance”. <…> Although the residence requirement in principle applies to Danish nationals and foreign nationals (except, where applicable, EU/EEA nationals), the Committee considers that the requirement in practice restricts access of foreign nationals to assistance to a much larger extent. It therefore amounts to indirect discrimination, which is not in conformity with the Charter.”33
Responding to the Committees recommendation the Government in its Periodic Report indicates, that it is the intention to uphold the starting allowance. The Government further informs that the High Court, Eastern Division in a judgement of 24 April 2009 had held, that the challenged provision did not violate any international Convention.
The Government did not inform the Committee that the High Court judgement was appealed to the Supreme Court on 10 June 2009, where the case is pending. The plaintiff in the case is a refugee. 2 further cases are pending before the High Court.
30 Bill No. 361 of June 6 2002
31 Bill No. 364 of June 6 2002
32 According to budget indexes from the Bureau of Information for Consumers – Forbrugerinformationen. Forbrugerinformationen is an administration under the jurisdiction of Ministry for Family and Consumer matters. www.forbruger.dk