The job centres in the independent cities and municipalities have primary responsibility for safeguarding material security for people who are not in gainful employment.
They provide basic income support for people dependent on benefits. In Germany approx. 6.6 million people rely on benefits, of which approx. 1.8 million are children and adolescents.
Despite the clear overlap, there remains a distinct lack of coordinated concepts between child and youth services and the providers of material security.
In Germany it falls to the job centres to safeguard material security for people of working age (15–65 years) whose incomes fail to reach the subsistence minimum. The job centres provide services in accordance with Book 2 of the Social Code (SGB II – Basic Security for Jobseekers). They are attached to local districts and independent cities, and generally represent common authorities from the respective district/independent city and the Federal Employment Agency (see Social Code).
The job centre provides cash benefits (more commonly known in Germany as "Hartz IV"), employment services and benefits in kind (Article 4 SGB II). Their principal goal is to end the recipient's dependency on benefits as swiftly as possible in line with the principle of "support and demand": benefit recipients are expected to go to great lengths and make personal sacrifices in order to return to a position of independent income.
Children and adolescents living with their parents are considered part of the benefit community. Parents receive social security benefits for each child, tiered according to the child's age. A great many minors in Germany are affected by parental poverty (see Poverty). Although the numbers have declined slightly, in 2022 around 1.8 million children and adolescents in Germany – or over one child in seven in the same age cohort – were living in benefit communities, i.e., in receipt of social security benefits from the job centre. In Bremen and Berlin, almost one-third of all minors subsist on social security benefits.
Article 4 (2) SGB II states that the organisations responsible also contribute to enabling children and adolescents to access suitable and available programmes for participation in society. To this end, they work with schools and child day-care facilities, youth services organisations, municipalities and municipal associations, non-statutory organisations, clubs and associations, and other local actors. They support parents and find suitable ways to ensure that children and adolescents use services for education and participation to the greatest possible extent. For this to be possible, the organisations in question must cooperate with youth services.
Youth services also works with the job centres, where the focus is on helping young job-seekers enter working life as part of youth employment assistance pursuant to Article 13 of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) (see Child and youth services and the labour authority).
However, a gap remains in areas where poverty amongst children and adolescents is a constant backdrop to socio-educational support. For example, in 2019 more than 50% of children receiving socio-educational support came from families on Hartz IV benefits. For full-time family care the figure is 69%, and 63% for socio-educational help for families. (Autorengruppe Kinder- und Jugendhilfe 2021). Socio-educational support (see Socio-educational support services) thus constitutes in a special way a field of work where the focus is on having to compensate for the socio-educational effects of poverty on children and adolescents, while youth services lacks the means for action to safeguard material security for children and adolescents. Despite the clear overlap between these areas, there is a distinct lack of coordination between the two.