Unlike the UK where child benefit has been available since the 1940’s, Spain has not offered a government backed incentive for children and families until the introduction of the Baby Bonus scheme in July 2007. However, under the new austerity measures this scheme has been phased out, disappearing in a rush of babies born before the first of the year 2011 (to take advantage of the final days of the scheme!) The Spanish Large Family Discount card was itself created to encourage bigger families since the birth rate dropped to below 10.7 per 1,000 head of population.
Tarjeta de Familia Numerosa
The benefits of the Spanish Family Discount card are themselves numerous, and on application you will receive a booklet explaining all the discounts in detail, but it includes discounts on school textbooks, school meals, cheaper flights for families, discounts on train fare and cheaper entrance to museums, theme parks and galleries. The official website to apply online is through the Conselleria de Bienestar Social for your region so, for instance, in the Valencia region this is found at http://www.bsocial.gva.es and the section for Families (Familia, Menor y Adopciones) gives advice on the application procedure, although this is only available in Spanish.
The card is for families with three or more children* that are permanently resident in Spain. If you need help to guide you through the process your town hall social worker is able to print out the relevant forms and assist you to fill them out and send it off to the correct department. It is often easier to ask the social worker to make the application for you, as the required paperwork depends on your family status and you may need translation of documents if you have English birth certificates, for instance.
* The "Ley de prespuestos generales" stated that as from 1st Jan 2011, single parents with 2 Children could be considered as a "Famila Numerosa"
State benefits for large families in Spain are co-ordinated by the autonomous region in which the family resides, but in general the Familia Numerosa discounts cover:
• Discount of 20% to 50% for train and road travel (RENFE and bus companies)
• Discount of 5% to 10% for plane tickets for national flights
• Contribution of 45% of the Social Security cost for hiring a person to care for the children and home, if two adults have to work away from home.
• Paternity leave expanded to 20 days for the parents of numerous familes.
• Preferential scoring in the regular public scholarships, or admission of students in schools.
• Discount or exemption in rates and public prices (to increase access to University)
• Discount in entrance to state museums, theme parks, galleries etc.
For the 20 % discounts on RENFE train tickets using the website, select your train time and destination and then go to "Seleccione un descuento" (Select one discount) that allows you to choose the Familia Numerosa and put in the details of your card number.
You will receive your Tarjeta de Familia Numerosa in the post, with one each per family member so that discounts for events like sporting activities or museum entrance are not dependent on the entire family being there! Take the Spanish Large Family Discount card with you, as more establishments join the scheme each year and you may be eligible for even more discounts as time goes on.
Guide to Familia Numerosa Discounts
Buried within the pages of the Discount Booklet that you receive along with your cards, you will find that the Familia Numerosa scheme even covers such morbid costs as needing to continue paying for a child’s education after the death of a spouse, in which case the card entitles the remaining family members to free education. The booklet also lists discounts at local associations such as sports clubs offering discounted membership, theme parks, educational establishments such as dance schools offering discounted places, and sections to remind you to use your card when applying for discounted school meals, school transport or even when paying for your IBI house tax (although some of these are dependent on your municipality.)
The Guia de las Familias Numerosas is a cumbersome read if you are not used to Spanish but it is well worth getting a fluent friend to translate it for you or running the text through an online translator to take full advantage of the discounts on offer. In some instances the discounts are as high as 50% – for instance, on entrance to theme parks in your locality.
Large families across Spain
May 15th is officially designated ‘Dia de las Familias Numerosas’ in Spain, but currently the government have cut back on discounts offered to large families in Spain. These were measures introduced in 1993 when the UN recognized that the family "as the basic unit of social life, is an important agent of sustainable development at all levels of society and that their contribution is essential to the success of this process". Current financial constraints have led the government to disregard this advice.
Be careful that you do not confuse this government scheme with the non-profit Federacion Española de Familias Numerosos which is an association that links those with the discount card, and creates opportunities for large family events. You can join the Federation once you have applied for and received your Spanish Family Discount card and it will help put you in touch with other members in your area.
There is also a Spanish benefit entitled Prestación económica por nacimiento o adopción de hijo but this is a one-off payment to offset the cost of a child, and another benefit for families that are struggling, which is means tested. Again this is a one off payment dependent on having worked for 2 years previously in Spain, and which is much less than child benefit in the UK. Both you would apply for via your town hall social worker, who is only likely to recommend them in cases of extreme hardship.
Anyone who obtains the Spanish family discount card can go on to apply to join the European Large Families Confederation (ELFAC) which plans to lobby member countries including Spain to give large families more support and assistance. More information is available from email@example.com based in Barcelona.
The process of applying may seem involved, like much of the bureaucracy in Spain, but the discounts are significant. The ‘Tarjeta de Familia Numerosa’ Card is also available under certain circumstances to orphaned children or single-parent families, or families that consist of natural and adopted children, and forms the main recourse to support children and parents in Spain.