Cyprus: new restrictions on large families

Large families buckling under new cuts

LARGER families are already struggling with the financial effects of newly-passed government measures, which cut heir benefits, according to the Pancyprian Organisation of Five-member Families (POP).

“We’re already feeling the effects because this is around the time that we would get paid the benefit,” said POP spokesman Elias Karaiskos, who said that he has three children, two of whom were students.

The measures passed in December targeted student and child benefits by introducing income criteria: all families earning over €89,000 a year would stop getting benefits and lower-income families were targeted on a sliding-scale. Those earning €39,000 or less were not affected by the cuts.

The new steps also redefine the meaning of a large family: if a family has two children who are dependents and two at university, they are considered a two-child family. The family would no longer receive an allowance for having two students at university, as they are no longer considered dependants, regardless of the family’s income.

Under the new measures, many families will receive the allowance yearly instead of monthly.

“At the moment people don’t even know whether they’re going to get their money as the Grants and Benefits Service have not even issued the application forms,” said POPO head Efthymios Strouthos, who reiterated that beneficiaries of the allowance need the allowance to live and not simply to save.

Under the new system all families must now reapply for benefits based on the new criteria, whereas the old system simply required a one-off application to be submitted and then every time a family’s financial situation might change. Now the application must be made yearly.

The last allowance was paid out on December 31, however under the new system they will not be given out until April, when applications have been processed.

A lack of application forms was confirmed by a Grants and Benefits Service administrative officer, Chrysostomos Papayiannis. “We realise how difficult the situation is especially because there are loopholes in the law,” said Papayiannis.

Only those applications that have been processed will receive a payment by April, if not they will not get the benefit.

In order to help the process run as smoothly as possible large families and three-member families – around 35,000 families – will be invited to make their applications first, he said.

He could not say when the forms would be ready but reassured that it would be soon.

DISY MP Tassos Mitsopoulos expressed concern over the issue yesterday citing the new measures as causing problems in the living standards of larger families.

“They should continue to receive the allowance then when their application is processed the relevant readjustments should be made,” said Mitsopoulos.

By Natalie Hami