Spielende Kinder im Grünen

New financial support: A more inclusive universal child benefit

The inclusive universal child benefit is a new form of financial support for children, adolescents and young adults up to the age of 25. It gives all young people the financial security they need to grow and develop as they should. It also provides them with more equitable opportunities for realizing their goals and participating in society, regardless of their family background.

Contact persons

Foto Antje Funcke
Antje Funcke
Senior Expert
Foto Sarah Menne
Sarah Menne
Senior Project Manager

What is the more inclusive universal child benefit?

In Germany, various government measures have been introduced to provide financial support to children and their families. Usually, an application has to be submitted and the amount of support depends on the parents’ income and the specific situation in which the children and their families live. Applications must often be sent to different government agencies depending on the case in question. The financial support is not sufficient, moreover, for ensuring that lower-income children and families have a fair chance to participate in society. That is why children and their families in Germany need a new form of financial support: the inclusive universal child benefit.  

This benefit would replace a number of the government support mechanisms currently available: the child benefit, the statutory allowances for children’s needs granted under Germany’s social insurance laws, the supplementary allowance for low-income families, and the lump-sum benefits from the country’s education and participation package. The more inclusive universal child benefit would decline as household income rises in order to assist those children and adolescents in particular who are growing up in poverty. The recipients of the benefit would be the children and adolescents themselves. The federal government would be responsible for funding the benefit. This new form of support would be transparent and unbureaucratic, and applying for it should be as easy as possible (i.e. via digital channels).

What is the more inclusive universal child benefit meant to cover?

The amount provided by the more inclusive universal child benefit must reflect the age-appropriate needs of children and adolescents. Proposals here would be developed by an interdisciplinary expert commission in collaboration with young people. The final outcome would be determined through a democratically legitimized process.  
The more inclusive universal child benefit should provide the financial security young people require to have a "good" childhood and adolescence offering average opportunities, thus preventing shame, exclusion and poverty. Children and adolescents are the ones who can best say what "good" means in this context. That is why their viewpoints must be considered when the more inclusive universal child benefit is being calculated. The basis for this would be our newly propesed needs survey

Which additional factors must be considered? 

Since the inclusive universal child benefit cannot cover the individual requirements of all children and their families, additional factors must be considered. They include the needs of young people who are ill or disabled, and children and adolescents in single-parent households or whose parents share custody. The additional needs of single-parent/shared-custody households must be ascertained empirically. Going beyond the basic benefit to cover extra needs is essential if the high poverty rates experienced by these families are to be reduced.   
The more inclusive universal child benefit would overlap with child support payments, educational grants and housing allowances. These overlaps must be examined in detail and resolved in a way that produces the best outcomes for children, adolescents and their families. We are working to ensure that is the case. 

Would children actually receive the money from the inclusive universal child benefit? 

When policies are proposed to provide poor families with more money, as is the case with the inclusive universal child benefit, the argument is often heard that parents would spend the money as they see fit and not necessarily on their children. Undoubtedly, there would be isolated cases where parents would not act with their child’s well-being in mind. As one of our studies shows, however, the majority of parents spend such funds wisely. If families receive money directly, it is easier and less bureaucratic for them. They do not have to apply again and over again for assistance to cover specific needs, such as tutoring, class trips or sports activities. The public sector also saves when red tape is kept to a minimum.  

Is giving children and adolescents more money all it takes? 

No, of course not. In addition to financial security, children and adolescents also need high-quality early child education and care (ECEC) centers and schools where they feel comfortable and receive a good education. They also need suitable free-time activities, a place to play, and support when they are troubled and things are not going well – offerings that should be available in the immediate vicinity. Parents require such counseling and support as well. More ideas on high-quality ECEC centers, high-quality schools and good on-site infrastructure can be found by clicking on the links.