A single mother in Münchenstein in the canton of Basel-Landschaft has been asked by her municipality to repay CHF 224,866 francs of welfare she received, according to a recent report by the Swiss broadcaster SRF.
Life became challenging for the 43-year-old woman after she gave birth to a premature child requiring intensive care. Then her mariage fell apart and the father failed to pay her adequate alimony. Unable to work she turned to welfare in 2003.
Nine years later in 2012, she found a job with a monthly salary of CHF 6,700. Then she received a letter from the municipality of Münchenstein requesting repayment of the welfare money she had received. In addition, she was asked her to sign an agreement to make monthly repayments of CHF 980 over 20 years.
In some Swiss cantons welfare payments are like loans that must be repaid when you’re back on your feet. Repayment rules vary by canton. In Zurich and Basel-City, repayment is only requested if you come into a large sum of money, for example from inheritance or a lottery win. Other cantons, like Basel-Landschaft, require regular repayments from your income once your economic situation improves.
The woman’s lawyer, Pierre Heusser, was critical of the municipality. The authorities should have had a conversation with her rather than sending her a letter, he said. The living standards of the former beneficiary need to be discussed. Heusser also questioned the legality of the 20-year-long repayment period and the sum demanded.
SRF report (in German)