Intense discussion in Chamber between Hedebouw and Vandenbroucke ...

The De Croo government wants to introduce the option of withholding 2.5 percent of the benefits from the long-term sick if they persistently refuse to complete a mandatory questionnaire or to start a conversation with a back-to-work coordinator. That is one of the measures that was decided on Tuesday together with the budget preparation.

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In addition to employees, the government also wants to make health insurance funds and employers accountable. For example, the latter will automatically have to give up 2.5 percent of the payroll if they count significantly more long-term sick among their employees than similar companies. This only applies to companies with at least fifty employees and long-term sick older than 55 years are not included.

Hedebouw: “Repack yourself, stop with that right-wing politics”

The extreme left PvdA reacts incensed. “Culpabilizing the long-term sick leads nowhere,” said group leader Raoul Hedebouw in the House on Wednesday afternoon, where the policy statement of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has been debated all day. Hedebouw mainly targeted the great Walloon competitor on the left, the PS. “I don’t understand that from socialists. Repack, stop with that right-wing politics and do solidarity, not accountability.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, N-VA finds the measure mainly symbolic. “What would Professor Vandenbroucke think of the elaboration of his big ideas?” Valerie Van Peel asked the Minister of Health and Social Affairs Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit). “I know you know better because your vision and principles are fantastic. But what you have been able to get from the PS is peanuts, symbolic politics and within so many years it will turn out that it has been worth nothing.”

Vandenbroucke: “Solidarity is also doing your part”

Vandenbroucke himself defended the government’s plans. “We clearly have a different vision of solidarity”, he objected to Hedebouw. “Solidarity means giving everyone what they are entitled to, helping people in need, but also: doing your part. And if people have to fill out a questionnaire and they refuse to do so after insisting and they block that process, can you not say: that is an obligation?”

The sanction of 2.5 percent of the benefit is not purely symbolic, Vandenbroucke also emphasized. “You shouldn’t take people 10 or 15 percent of their benefits to push them into poverty in the hope that they will then start working. You have to help people, guide them. That is a chapter that we have yet to start writing and that will require a lot of work. In the meantime, I’ll listen to the theatrical debate you want to have. I think mine about that.”

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