Social assistance: Applying for subsistence assistance

If your income or assets are not sufficient for your necessary livelihood, you will receive assistance for subsistence (social assistance) under certain conditions.

As a rule, you will receive assistance for subsistence as a social assistance benefit if you are in need of help and are no longer able to work or are no longer able to work, as well as:

  • Neither the basic security for jobseekers (Hartz IV),
  • still receive the basic security in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity.

Children under the age of 15 receive social assistance if they:

  • Live together with people who receive help for subsistence (usually with the parents) and
  • cannot secure their livelihood despite maintenance claims.

Subsistence assistance benefits include:

  • the flat-rate standard rate to secure livelihoods, for example for food, clothing or personal hygiene. If parents or one of the parents live with their child or children in an apartment, a separate standard rate is set for each family member. This is in 2019 for:
    • Adults: EUR 424,00,
    • Spouse, life partner, partner of a marriage-like community: EUR 382.00,
    • Children under 6 years: EUR 245,00,
    • Children aged 6 to under 14 years: EUR 302,00 and
    • Young people aged 14 to under 18: EUR 322.00.
  • Educational and participation benefits for children and young people, for example for:
    • School trips,
    • personal school supplies,
    • School tickets,
    • supplementary learning support,
    • Lunch in schools or
    • Club amounts, music lessons and the like.
  • Requirements for accommodation and heating in the amount of your actual rental and heating costs.
  • In exceptional cases, assumption of debts for:
    • avoidance of homelessness,
    • Securing your accommodation or
    • to remedy a comparable emergency, e.g. debts to the energy supplier.
  • Requirements for contributions to your health and long-term care insurance and, under certain conditions, for your retirement provision.

In addition to your standard rate, you can receive benefits for additional subsistence needs. You can apply for these additional requirements if you:

  • have reached their retirement age and meet the requirements for a severely disabled person's card with the mark "G" (walking disability),
  • although they have not yet reached retirement age, they meet the requirements for a severely disabled person's card with the mark "G" and are not able to work under pension law,
  • are expectant mothers from the 13th week of pregnancy,
  • are single parents,
  • have reached the age of 15, are disabled and receive assistance for appropriate schooling or training as part of the integration assistance, or
  • are dependent on a special diet due to a serious illness, which leads to higher costs than a "normal" diet.  

If you do not live alone, the social welfare office includes the entire family income to determine your need for help. For this purpose, the income of all family members living together in an apartment is taken into account, for example:

  • earned income,
  • maintenance payments and
  • Pension income.

The child benefit paid for minors and any maintenance payments for a child are attributable to this child in order to cover their needs.

Certain assets are considered as protective assets not to be taken into account, for example:

  • Smaller cash amounts (financial assets per adult: EUR 5,000) or
  • an adequate house plot.

These are not taken into account in the calculation of the benefits.

With a few exceptional cases, you will not receive any benefits for past periods.

  • valid identity card or passport, if applicable confirmation of registration
  • Proof of temporary full disability in the form of a pension notice or medical certificates
  • Proof of income, for example for pension, sick pay, child benefit, maintenance payments or advance payment
  • Proof of assets, such as savings
  • Rental agreement and subsequent changes, in particular with regard to the rent amount
  • Proof of expenses, in addition to rent and rent payment, especially for advance payments and bills for ancillary costs and heating costs, documents about insurance contributions
  • Proof of health and long-term care insurance, i.e. information on health insurance and insurance status or contract for private health and long-term care insurance

Note: The scope of the required documents, especially for proof of income and assets, depends on the individual case. Your local social welfare office may require you to provide additional documents, such as current bank statements, divorce decrees or maintenance titles.

Forms: can be obtained from your social welfare office

Online procedure possible: no

Written form required: no

Personal appearance necessary: yes


  • They are in need of assistance and are not able to work because they are fully reduced for a limited period of time:
    • You are in need of help if you cannot fully cover your livelihood from your own resources and strength.
    • You are fully reduced for a limited period of time if you are not able to work regularly for at least 3 hours a day for the foreseeable future (more than 6 months) under the usual conditions of the general labour market.
  • You will not receive:
    • Basic security for jobseekers (Hartz IV),
    • basic security in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity, or
    • Basic benefits for asylum seekers.

Related Links

  • ยง 27 - 40 Twelfth Book of the Social Code (SGB XII)

You must apply for subsistence assistance in person.

  • Arrange a consultation with your local social welfare office. Take all the necessary documents with you to this interview.
  • As part of the consultation, fill out the application for subsistence assistance.
  • The social welfare office must decide on your application and inform you of the result. This is done by means of a notification, which is usually sent to you by letter.
  • If your application has been approved, you will receive a notice of approval, it will be rejected, a rejection notice.
  • In both cases, the decision must contain the causes of the decision, as well as information on the possibility of appealing against it. For this purpose, an indication of the deadline must be included within which you can file an objection.
  • The approval notice must include the amount of the service to be paid as well as the beginning of the payment. From the date mentioned, the social welfare office will transfer the money to your account at the beginning of the month. You can also specify the account of a third party for the transfer.
  • Attention: You are obliged to inform your responsible social welfare office immediately of any changes in your income and financial circumstances.

Note: If you do not have an account, you will receive the services by payment instruction for offsetting. The resulting costs must be borne by you. If you can prove that it is impossible for you to set up a bank account through no fault of your own, the social welfare office will bear the costs. A cash check payment is not possible.

Responsible for the content
Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS)

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