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Monika Scholz has been looking after her now 96-year-old mother for years.
Besides work, more precisely, besides a full-time position.
Because nothing else is possible for the Munich resident.
She is single, she needs the money from her job to pay the 1,500 euros rent in Germany's most expensive city.
As a tax clerk, she does not earn badly.
The model of taking significantly less time at work and letting the long-term care insurance increase her own pension entitlements a little does not help her any further.
Monika Scholz takes on her care task at a time when there is much talk of appreciation for carers, when the effort involved in caring is discussed intensively.
And in which Germany's health insurance companies have announced that they want to spend more money at least on professional care.
Nursing staff are missing at the back and front.
Today, after all, many more people use the additional payments into their pension.
Over 800,000 people care for their relatives and have now received pension points from their care insurance upon request.
The requirements are set out in the Social Security Code:
The person to be cared for has at least care level 2.
The caregiver may not work more than 30 hours per week.
The carer cares for at least ten hours a week, divided over at least two days of the week.
And the care period extends for two months or more.
The model has already made significant progress in recent years.
Four years ago, not even half as many were using it as today: Only 328,000 pension points could be credited for care.
Today Barmer alone pays pension contributions for almost 100,000 nurses, Techniker Krankenkasse and DAK for 50,000 to 60,000 each.
Remarkable: Around 100,000 retirees are now receiving additional pension points and thus additional pension because they care.
More about that later.
The condition that is not talked about so much and not so often is that the carer has to reduce their working hours in case of doubt in order to get the pension supplement.
You can only apply for the additional pension points if you work 30 hours a week or less in your job.
Practically punished for the main job
The logic is understandable: Those who care for ten hours or more cannot work full-time well.
But the rigid 30-hour rule prevents creative solutions.
In 2018 alone, the Barmer Ersatzkasse had to refuse 14,000 caregivers the pension supplement, she wrote to me this week.
At HEK Krankenkasse, too, around 15 percent of nursing applications are rejected because the caregiver works too much.
If you extrapolate the numbers, there are hundreds of thousands of carers nationwide who (have to) work too much in their job in order to receive support here.
You are practically punished even though you did nothing wrong.
Some cannot reduce working hours in their job by 25 percent from 40 to 30 hours because they urgently need the money from the full-time position.
The others work in small companies and the employer doesn't play along.
And in the end they care for their relatives anyway.
There are starting points, but not for everyone:
Since 2008, larger employers have had the right to reduce the working hours for such a care task for six months (care time) and later return to the old scope of the position.
Prerequisite: The company has at least 16 employees.
In companies with more than 26 employees, this option is available for 24 months with a minimum working time of 15 hours per week, i.e. family care leave there.
Only companies with 45 or more employees must enable their employees to work part-time on the bridge, i.e. to work less for years and then be able to return to full-time.
In smaller companies there is nothing at all.
In order to be able to run models with a temporary reduction in working hours without wage compensation, but with pension points, wage and living costs must be in an acceptable relationship.
The money has to be enough.
People like Monika Scholz can tell you a thing or two about that.
At Finanztip we can show how a thousand more of the salary is left over a year if you check contracts with a few simple steps, choose cheaper electricity and cell phone providers and also save a few hundred on car insurance.
But that doesn't replace 25 percent of income.
The interest-free loans for nursing leave, which are offered by the state, do not help in such a position.
Monika Scholz, for example, has been providing care since 2012. Such long periods are not economically envisaged for the loans offered.
Taking a loan from the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (BAFzA) over a period of years is often unsustainable.
The need for better solutions is growing.
The Federal Statistical Office already counts almost 2.6 million people who are cared for at home - a quarter more than in 2015. There are a total of 3.5 million people in need of care.
From a political and social point of view, it is totally desirable that as many people as possible are cared for by relatives at home.
Firstly, because most people in need of care want to stay at home in their familiar surroundings for as long as possible.
Second, because there is a lack of professional carers.
Nursing services are currently looking for six months to fill a position.
Third, in many cases home care is also the cheaper alternative.
Care facilities, where housing costs are added to the care costs, are not affordable for many seniors despite care insurance.
You are then dependent on help from the office.
The legislature only passed new regulations last autumn that provide financial relief for relatives in such cases.
In the end, the costs remain with the taxpayer.
When pensioners supplement their pension with pensioners
So why not get retirees to look after them?
Hundreds of thousands of you are already receiving pension points for caring for your loved ones.
But that could be a lot more.
With a trick, the legislature has also made it possible for full pensioners to be rewarded for their care work with a subsequent significant pension increase.
In addition, the full-time pensioner can be downgraded to a 99 percent part-time pensioner for the care period and waives 1 percent of his pension during the care period.
Then senior citizens who are employed can receive pension contributions from the long-term care insurance fund.
When the care period is over, the carer then receives a significantly higher pension - up to 30 euros more pension per year of care.
And of course that one percent again.
It's a bit complicated, but the pension insurance advises those interested.
Far too few senior citizens are aware of the trick with the 99 percent partial pension.
At the HEK, for example, almost every third application for pension points for care had to be rejected because they were made by full pensioners, I learned this week.
Money from the tax office
Every cent from the tax office also helps.
The Ministry of Finance has announced that it will significantly increase the flat-rate nursing care allowances for carers.
Caregivers who look after people with care level 2 should for the first time ever be able to state a lump sum for tax: 600 euros.
For care bike 3 it will be 1,100 euros, and for care levels 4 and 5, the lump sum is to be almost doubled from 924 to 1,800 euros.
Family care times for everyone
Family care periods must be possible for all employees.
In terms of society, we only have two options: either to have professional caregivers available for our 3.5 million people in need of care or to make it easier for working people to combine work and care tasks.
It can only work if both are done.
Monika Scholz would have been helped with more flexibility.
To be able to reduce working hours a little because the boss has to join in and your own cash register just allows for that - not just a 25 percent reduction in working hours or nothing at all.
Then more expenses would have to be paid by the long-term care insurance, and Scholz could use the future higher lump sum.
Hundreds of thousands of relatives could be relieved of care.
It would also help to review the regular household costs with my colleagues at Finanztip.
With a little luck, a thousand will be in there too.
Sometimes the small adjustment screws help.
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