Any person normally residing in Germany who cannot support themselves by their own means (income and assets) or efforts (joining the workforce), nor with the help of a third party, is – with a few exceptions - entitled to income support pursuant to the Second or Twelfth Social Code. Benefits according to the Second Book as well as benefits of the basic insurance for old age and in case of partial disability according to the Twelfth Book are only available on application. Minimum subsistence benefits are available according to the Twelfth Book as soon as social services have been informed about it. Limited entitlement rules apply for foreigners and people in vocational training.
Whether people in need of help are eligible for benefits and which of the two books of the Social Code apply depends on whether they are able to work or not. Furthermore, the classification is important whether the person in need of help lives on their own or in a needs-based community together with other family members in need of help.
Income support pursuant to the Social Code XII is intended to ensure that destitute people who usually pursuant to the Social Code II are not entitled to receive benefits, often live alone and are incapable of supporting themselves can live in a decent manner. If they satisfy further conditions, they can receive subsistence support pursuant to the Third Chapter of the Social Code XII.
Persons who have ended their active working life when reaching the statutory retirement age and obtain an old-age pension that does not cover their subsistence and those over 18 whose fitness for work is permanently fully diminished on medical grounds receive a basic allowance in old-age and when unfit for work pursuant to the Fourth Chapter of the Social Code XII.
Unemployed people fit for work but in need of assistance may apply for basic jobseekers' allowance pursuant to the Social Code II for themselves and for the people they share a domestic unit with. People who cannot or not sufficiently with the wages they earn are classed as in need of assistance.
Normally, the application is submitted by one person of the domestic unit. Every member of a domestic unit can also apply individually for income support. The income and assets of the persons in question and the spouse or partner living with them are taken into account when calculating the benefits.
Income support pursuant to the Social Code XII
Any person residing in Germany who cannot support themselves by their own means (income and assets) or efforts (joining the workforce), nor with the help of a third party, is entitled to income support.
People at a working age who are unable to support themselves and are temporarily unfit for work and are not eligible to benefits pursuant to the Social Code II receive subsistence support pursuant to the Third Chapter of the Social Code XII.
Persons over 65 who have ended their active working life and obtain an old-age pension that does not secure their subsistence and those over 18 whose fitness for work is permanently fully diminished on medical grounds receive a basic allowance in old-age and when unfit for work pursuant to the Fourth Chapter of the Social Code XII.
People who are over 15 years and have not reached the age entitling them to receive an old-age pension (65 to 67 years), are for work but in need of assistance and have their habitual abode in Germany may apply for basic jobseekers' allowance pursuant to the Social Code II. This is available only on application.
The basic jobseekers' allowance is based on a household principle. This means that in addition to the beneficiary who is able to work also every member of a household who shares the same needs community and qualifies for benefits can apply individually for benefits to secure a humane subsistence level either in the form of unemployment benefits II or income support. This also means that the income and assets of the persons in question and the spouse or partner living with them are taken into account when calculating the benefits.
The municipal authorities (social security offices) are responsible for paying out the social insurance benefits.
Payment of the basic jobseekers’ allowance is the joint responsibility of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (“Jobcenter”) and the municipal authorities, as well as the 105 authorised municipal authorities as the only authorities responsible for the basic allowance. The amount of the standard rates varies nationwide depending on the age of the person entitled to benefits and their joint household situation (SGB XII) or whether they belong to a domestic unit (SGB II). They provide a flat rate to cover the costs for food, hygiene, household goods and every day needs. As of 1 January 2018, the following "standard needs" apply across Germany:
In addition, there are:
The external service of the competent service provider inspects the applicant's living and earning situation.
Subsistence aid starts as soon as the competent local social security provider learns about it. Subsistence income support at old age and a reduction to earning capacity are available only on application. You make the applications at the office of the welfare authorities of the city or community in which you live. A basic jobseeker’s allowance (unemployment benefits II / income support) can be applied for at your local job centre. Generally, this is the job centre of the area where the beneficiary normally resides. You can obtain further information there as well as in the citizens' advice centre at the town hall where you live.
The service providers where the application is submitted are always obliged to provide advice. Additionally, non-statutory welfare agencies and trade unions, among others, offer advice, which is free for their members, on social rights issues. Charitable associations such as unemployment centres help those in need with the forms and will also accompany you, if required, to the public authorities.
European Commission publications: