The number of people receiving an integration income (RI) in Belgium has more than doubled over the past 20 years, representing 1.34% of the population, or 156,897 beneficiaries. This increase has put a strain on municipal finances, particularly in large cities like Liège. The Union of Towns and Municipalities of Wallonia (UVCW) is calling for 100% federal coverage of RI to alleviate the burden on local budgets. In addition to the rising number of integration incomes, there has also been a surge in demand for other social aids, putting further pressure on municipalities. The situation has resulted in an increase in workload for staff at the CPAS, the organization responsible for administering these benefits.
In a few years, the share of the population receiving an integration income (RI) has increased everywhere in Belgium. It now represents 1.34% of the Belgian population, or 156,897 beneficiaries. They were only 74,100 in 2003.
At Walloon level, the number of integration incomes has increased by 72% over the last 15 years. The RI is partly financed by the federal state, but the balance is the responsibility of the CPAS, and therefore of municipal finances. For large cities, the situation is becoming worrying. “In Liège, we have had to increase the city’s allocation to the CPAS by 40% since the start of the legislaturenotes Christine Defraigne, Alderman of Finance (MR) in the Ardent City. To date, we have more than 10,800 beneficiaries of an integration income in our territory. They were still only 7,000 10 years ago”, she explains.
100% federal coverage of IR?
For the Union of Towns and Municipalities of Wallonia (UVCW), the issue of the CPAS budget is a priority. In 2023, municipal allocations to CPAS have increased by more than 20%. The indexation of staff salaries and allowances weighed very heavily on municipal finances. To clean up their accounts, the UVCW asks that the federal government support the financing of IR at 100%. Christine Defraigne also supports it. “It would just be logical. The CPAS fulfill a mission that is provided for by federal law. It would therefore be normal if we were not left to fend for ourselves”, believes the liberal alderman.
If the big cities are the most impacted by this increase in the budgets of the CPAS, the other municipalities also feel it passing. “I don’t think it pleases any mayor to see his CPAS cost him more”, explains Benjamin Scandella, president of the CPAS de Farciennes. “We are here in the poorest municipality in Wallonia, so we are inevitably impacted, he continues. In towns like ours where we are already struggling to balance our budget, we expect to be helped. “The elected official recalls that, often, the finances of municipalities are victims of choices made by other levels of power.
Additional social assistance should not be overlooked
Benjamin Scandella nevertheless qualifies the negative impact of the explosion of IR. “This is of course quite expensive for us, but part of the requests for allowances are made by young people who want to pursue higher education.he explains. We consider this to be positive news. This means that in Farciennes, in one of the municipalities where the level of higher education diploma is the lowest, young people are trained. ”
If the figures for integration income attract the most attention, Sandrine Xhaufflaire, adviser to the federation of CPAS, recalls that many other social aids have seen their demand jump. “For months, people have been receiving a large number of additional aids because they cannot make it through the month, relate-t-elle. This is a phenomenon for which we do not have precise figures, but the increase is exponential with a new public of poor workers. This aid is 100% at the expense of the municipalities, which are already bloodless. ”
The adviser points out that this situation also has a negative impact on the staff of the CPAS. Their workload is always increasing. The increase in staff (+18% since 2006) has not at all kept pace with the growth in requests for benefits.
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