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Thousands of unemployment benefits still unpaid in Catalonia

Source: El Pais - Wed 10th Aug 2011

The recently imposed reform of the unemployment benefit scheme by the Regional government of Catalonia has caused severe problems for thousands of people reliant on the payment.

The Generalitat has chosen to modify the way that payments are calculated and awarded as it believes that many are claiming the benefit fraudulently or unfairly. Unfortunately this has happened right in the middle of the busy holiday period, both when the benefit is desperately needed, and when only a skeleton staff are on hand to oversee the changes to the system.

The monthly benefit payment of around 420 euros, which is currently paid to 34'000 applicants, is now 9 days overdue in many cases.

A study by the Generalitat's department of employment back in 2009 estimated that each payment went to a household that had to support an average of 3.25 people, meaning that a total of 110,500 people were dependent on the benefit in some way. Clearly, the escalation of unemployment over the two years since the last report means that the number of dependants on the payment will be much higher.

In Girona, which has the highest single number of claimants in the region at 1,100, around 100 people have not received any benefit payment for months. Girona City Hall has created an emergency fund to cover basic necessities such as rent and food, and a local charity is distributing food to those in need.

"Last week the Generalitat told [benefits claimants] that it was down to lies on the part of town halls' social assistance departments, and in the past few days they've been sending them to us instead of giving explanations on their own part," said sources from the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Tarragona.

Tarragona City Hall pointed out that it is only responsible for managing claims and the Generalitat themselves are responsible for the payments.

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