Veranika Hlebovich, the mother of many children from the Nieharelaye, turned to Belsat for help: the Dzyarzhynsk municipal authorities threaten her with turning off the electricity and then putting her four children to the orphanage, if the woman does not pay her debts social housing utilities. If children are taken away, their support in the shelter will cost about $ 100 per month.
Today Veronika’s debt for utilities is almost 5,000 BYN. Of these, the main debt is about 1,700 BYN, the rest is penalty.
“For me, this amount is big. I have no such money. I do not know how to pay off the debt. But if they take the children to the orphanage, I do not know what I’ll do,” the woman said.
In the settlement and cash center of housing and communal services, we were explained that this is the only way to collect money. The communal workers already sent a warning that they would turn off the electricity, because they payment had not been received, but because of the children the electricity was not turned off.
“Communal payments were not paid, that’s just for the last 4 months. They paid irregularly, every other month. The payment was untimely. Warning letters were sent. They did not react to them at all. Letters were sent about these underage children in arrears to the department of education,” explains Valyantsina Kaneichyk, the local housing and communal services calculations expert.
This is not the first time. Earlier, Belsat reported incidents about communal services taking children hostage to make debtors pay. But it is difficult to assess how widespread this practice is, parents rarely turn to journalists, because they are afraid to make the officials even more angry.
Belarus is a social state, even the highest rank officials claim.
Often, instead of help, families who are in a difficult situation get the ultimatum from the state.
“It is a new way of securing commitments. If you have to pay, you pay. If they take your child, you will do anything: pay off the utilities and pay the child support,” the lawyer Alena Kashyna sums up.
Now Veronika is on maternity leave and receives child allowance around 420 BYN. The children’s father earns about 300 BYN. The money is constantly in short supply. The family does not know where to take the right amount to avoid an even deeper debt hole.
Volha Chaychyts, Andrei Kozel, Belsat