Germany - a Welfare State

"The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state."
(Art. 20, para. 1 of the Basic Law)

The welfare state principle inscribed in the Basic Law is a fundamental decision on basic values in society. This principle requires the achievement of social justice as a precondition for human dignity and freedom within the rule of law: the state must grant assistance to the individual and social compensation for disadvantaged groups and individual persons. This principle must also be applied to determine whether interpretations of laws are in line with the constitution. The creation of a fair social order involves the efforts of all forces in society. Among these is of course the non-statutory welfare, one of the cornerstones of the welfare state. Partnership and cooperation between public and non-statutory welfare agencies is governed by the Social Code and the special legal arrangements for the area of child and youth welfare and welfare assistance. The aim here is to provide effective complementary support for a particular welfare service to the benefit of the person seeking help. Where this cooperation involves the efforts of public and non-statutory agencies it is guided by the subsidiarity principle. In simple terms, subsidiarity means that whatever the individual, family, group or organizational body can do on its own must not be turned into the responsibility of a higher authority or of the state. It should therefore be insured that the competence and responsibility of the respective social group is recognized and made use of. However, this also means that the state has a duty to strengthen the smaller units where necessary so that they have the means to perform their tasks properly.

The recognition of social initiatives expressed in the subsidiarity principle grants the right to choose to citizens in need of assistance. This derives from constitutional rights: respect for the dignity of man, individual liberty and the free development of his or her personality, and freedom of faith and creed.