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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Tasks and fields of work > Integration support

Integration support - Legal basis

Person with a disability (as defined in Article 2 of Social Code Book 9)
= person with a physical, psychological, intellectual or sensory impairment that, in interaction with attitudinal and environmental barriers, is highly likely to impair their equal participation in society.

Responsibility for providing integration support to persons with disabilities lies with various so-called rehabilitation providers.

Child and youth services is responsible for providing integration support to young people with (potential) psychological disabilities (Article 35a of Book 8 of the Social Code).

In this case, the claimants are the young people themselves.

  • Child or youth psychiatrists or psychotherapists diagnose the psychological disability; the youth welfare office assesses the participation impairment.

The services to be provided are selected in accordance with the applicable legislation in Book 9 of the Social Code.


Familie und Inklusion: Zwei Kinder sitzen an einem Tisch und malen / Family and inclusion: Two children sitting at a table and drawing

Integration support ensures that individuals with a disability can exercise their right to effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, a right that Germany pledged to enforce at the latest when the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into force in 2009. These integration – or participation – services are broken down into a number of categories, i.e., medical participation, professional participation, participation in education, participation in society, and supplementary material services. Responsibility for provision lies with a number of what are known as rehabilitation providers (e.g., statutory health insurance funds, the Federal Employment Agency, Germany’s statutory pension insurance scheme, or youth and integration services providers).

In 2015, Germany was audited to examine to what extent it had succeeded in implementing the CRPD. A number of areas were found wanting. Consequently, in 2017 Germany reformed much of its existing legislation on participation by adopting the Federal Act on Participation (Bundesteilhabegesetz/BTHG). One major change involved a reinterpretation of “disability” in line with the CRPD, which states that “persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (corresponding provision in German law: Article 2 of Book 9 of the Social Code [SGB IX]).

Previously, the presence of a disability was deemed to have been caused by a personal impairment (disability understood as a pathology). By contrast, the new Act makes reference to the barriers encountered by persons with a disability - they are, literally, rendered dis-abled by their surroundings (in line with the biopsychosocial model). This interpretation of disability is also reflected in Germany’s Act to Strengthen Children and Youth of 2021 (Kinder- und Jugendstärkungsgesetz/KJSG); Section 7 (2) of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) uses this general definition in reference to children, adolescents and young adults. Having said that, lawmakers decided against updating the outmoded interpretation of disability in Section 35a, a decisive provision when it comes to young people with psychological disabilities. This is a failing that needs to be addressed. In practical terms, too, it means that there is a legal discrepancy between this definition and those in Article 2 of Book 9 (SGB IX) and Article 7 of Book 8.

Under Article 35a of Book 8, public-sector providers of child and youth services are responsible for delivering integration support to young people with (potential) psychological disabilities. However, children and adolescents with a physical and/or mental disability are currently covered by the integration support system that caters to adult persons with disabilities under Book 9 (see also Child and youth services and inclusion). The 2021 Act to Strengthen Children and Youth foresees the gradual abolishment of this split responsibility by 2028, at which point the youth welfare office shall be responsible for delivering services to all children and adolescents whether they have a disability or not (see Child and youth services and inclusion and Inclusion).

Unlike socio-educational support services (see Socio-educational support services) – but like the legal entitlement to child day care – integration support is not claimed by the parents or guardians but by the children or adolescents themselves, even though in doing so, most will be represented by their parents/guardians. Ahead of delivering a participation service, Article 35a (1a) requires that a psychological disability be diagnosed by a child or youth psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Then, the youth welfare office assesses to what extent the young person in question is (potentially) hindered in participating equally in society.

Should a need for support be deemed to exist, the services to be provided are selected in line with the relevant part of Book 9 of the Social Code, to which Section 35a (3) of Book 8 makes reference. These may include, inter alia, services to ensure participation in education (e.g., classroom assistance, Article 112 of Book 9), participation in society (e.g., placement with a foster family, Article 113 [4] of Book 9), or professional/vocational or medical participation (e.g., therapy, Article 42 of Book 9). See also Integration support for young people with a psychological disability for an overview of service types.

Further reading
  • Ausschuss der Vereinten Nationen für die Rechte von Menschen mit Behinderungen, Abschließende Bemerkungen über den ersten Staatenbericht Deutschlands, (CRPD/C/DEU/CO/1), 2015, III. A. No. 8 (a).
  • v. Boetticher, Arne (2022): § 35a. In: Münder, Johannes/Meysen, Thomas/Trenczek, Thomas: Frankfurter Kommentar zum SGB VIII. Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. 9th edition, Baden-Baden.
  • Schönecker, Lydia (2019). Auswirkungen des BTHG auf Kinder und Jugendliche mit Behinderungen, heilpä 34 (3), p. 18−23.
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