Anyone living in Germany who falls on hard times should still be allowed to live in human dignity. If they are unable to overcome the situation on their own, they receive social assistance (Sozialhilfe). Social Assistance is an act of solidarity: It helps individuals and households who are unable to meet their own needs and lack sufficient entitlement under other insurance and welfare systems.
Social assistance is not about providing alms for the poor. It is a legally enshrined form of assistance designed to allow people to live a dignified life and to empower them to become non-dependent as soon as they possibly can. This is why the new rules boosting this form of self-help are of particular importance.
It makes no difference whether or not a hardship situation is self-induced. Almost all social assistance benefits are legal entitlements. Anyone in need receives help which is tailored to their needs and takes their personal and financial circumstances into account. Social assistance is provided in the form of services, benefit payments and benefits in kind (other than services).
Book II of the Social Code (known as the Hartz IV Act) entered into force on 1 January 2005 in an effort to combat unemployment. The basic security benefits for job-seekers contained in SGB II replace the earlier unemployment benefit and social assistance for job-seekers able to work. Now, all employable people in need who have no entitlement to unemployment benefit under SGB III have access to the same benefits and receive assistance subject to the same rules: from a single source under one roof.
People in need who are unable to work and people over the age of 65 who are in need may continue to receive social assistance, i.e. assistance towards living expenses or needs-based pension supplement in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity as defined in SGB XII.