August 31 was one of the happiest days of their lives for Alexandra Rubio and her partner. The birth of Leire filled these new parents with joy, who at that time did not suspect that they were about to face an administrative journey that was going to keep them unpaid ever since. And they are not the only ones. The National Institute of Social Security (INSS) suffers a collapse that is causing delays of months in the payment of maternity and paternity benefits. The ministry led by José Luis Escrivá recognizes the situation and assures that it is taking measures to solve it; meanwhile, there are many households that are seen without income.
"We were going to get married last year but we suspended it due to the coronavirus and we are pulling the savings we had for the wedding. If it had not been for that, with our salaries and the expenses we have, we would not have had money. We live day to day ", relates Alexandra, who knows that without this spring she would have been forced to turn to her parents or her in-laws in order to survive. In these more than two months, she has only received help for working mothers, a help that depends on the Treasury and that consists of 100 euros per month.
The problems of this Madrilenian began already in the Civil Registry. In the Fuenlabrada office, where she lives, they denied the girl's registration on the grounds that, despite being registered in the municipality, her partner appears in one address – the family home – and she, in another – that of her parents. At the Móstoles headquarters that was not an impediment, but there she needed an appointment and it was not given until September 27. "How, being the same State agency, are they not all governed by the same criteria?" complains this woman , that until this procedure was resolved, he could not request the benefits, some payments that have not yet been collected. "If you don't have savings, what do you do? Do you starve? Do you steal?" She cries.
At the time the baby is born and the parents request maternity and paternity leave, the company they work for stops paying their salary and it is the State that takes charge of their remuneration. It is also the INSS that is responsible for paying the benefits of parents who are receiving unemployment. Due to the pandemic, requests are having to be made electronically and applicants also complain about the difficulties they encounter in contacting someone from the administration who they can ask or complain about.
The delays that are occurring catch these families at a time when bills are skyrocketing. To the mortgage or the rent, the car and the rest of the usual expenses, the arrival of a child at home adds the purchase of huge amounts of diapers, clothes, formula milk if there is no possibility of breastfeeding... and something Just as important as most of those affected contacted by this newspaper mention: vaccines.
"There are those that do not fit into the calendar but it is good to put them on because you do not want them to get sick. For them you do anything and if necessary you take it from another place. I have already paid one of 70 euros per dose, and there are three , and this month we get another 100 euros, which is two injections," says Bárbara Suárez. This young woman gave birth on August 23 and her file and that of her husband are still being studied, as she can see every time she goes to the Social Security website: "We have asked the agency if we had done something wrong and we they have said no, that they are almost four months late".
This couple is also merging savings that, without any entry, do not stop falling. "Thanks to the fact that we have that mattress. I wonder how people who don't have it are living. When they demand a payment from you, you have to pay it right away, if it doesn't come to you with interest on arrears or they even repossess you," says this mother, that with his first child, born in 2018, he did not have this type of problem.
She didn't have them either four years ago Roberto Pérez. But now, with his second baby, he is another victim of the bureaucratic jam. "We had saved very little and we just had to make some repairs to the car. The only income we have is the subsidy that my wife receives, which is very low. My in-laws are helping us but it is not a dish of good taste to have to depend on others ", he manifests. This man asked for the benefit a month ago but before the news that reached him that the payment is extended.
On January 1, birth and childcare leave for fathers was raised to the 16 weeks that mothers already had. The objective is to promote equality, but these obstacles do not favor it. In fact, Roberto wonders if he acted well when he took the leave: "If I had known, I would have continued working. At least I know that on the 30th of each month I have my payroll."
Patricia is also on the list of victims, who asks to be identified only by her name. She has been on leave since July 12 due to her pregnancy, her contract ended on the 27th, ten days before she went into labor; She hasn't been paid for ten days either, despite having provided all the documentation to the INSS on August 6. "After several telephone appointments" she knows that "everything is well delivered" and since the end of October her request appears as resolved on the public body's website, but he has not yet received it.
He also knows nothing about her maternity benefit and has spent more than three months "without receiving a single euro". With her boy, luckily, the procedure has worked and they also have an economic mattress, but she can't help but wonder what would have happened if they lived up to date and if he hadn't received the transfer either: "Should we tell the landlord to talk to the INSS? Do we do the same in the supermarket or at the gas station? It's amazing. The system is collapsed and people depend on it."
This collapse has led in certain cases to some applicants receiving income even after returning to their jobs. This is confirmed by the story of Pedro, who prefers not to be mentioned by his real name. His daughter was born in mid-April and they hired a documentation management service at the hospital, which submitted all the papers in May. "At first I took ten weeks and they paid me the second fortnight of July, a month after finishing that first sick leave. Then I took another four weeks in July that they paid me in October. We have two more weeks that I asked for in September, to be able to reconcile with our other daughter's going back to school, and we haven't received them yet," she explains.
"My wife does not work, the salary that comes into the house is mine. We, anticipating this, ask for a loan to be able to meet day-to-day expenses: mortgage, food, the extracurricular activities of the elder..." , continues and admits that "little by little" the situation is being solved, but they have had moments when they thought they were not going to get paid.
History repeats itself with María and Carlos, also fictitious names. This couple had their third child on June 24 but after several attempts and telematic problems they were unable to submit the application until almost a month later. Despite receiving a confirmation e-mail, at the end of August they tried to contact Social Security because their page stated that no file had been received in his name.
"There begins a journey in which you enter a loop. They don't give you an appointment either in person or by phone and it's exasperating because the website informs you of some telephone numbers and the telephone numbers refer you to the web. I send several emails and they answer all of them, but They come to tell me that there is a delay and that they cannot check the status of our request because we did it without a digital certificate," recalls María, who finally got paid at the end of October, almost 15 days after finishing her maternity leave. "We should do these procedures at the bar, because there are no restrictions or capacity or anything there," she concludes with irony.
All these cases have happened in the Community of Madrid. The ministry points out that the processing time for the benefit is not homogeneous in all the provinces, "since the most deficient in personnel find it more difficult to absorb their incoming volume", and expressly cites the Madrid region. From the Escrivá portfolio, they allege that Social Security has lost 20% of its workforce in the last ten years with "the freezing of the replacement rates of the PP Government", and add that the pandemic affected the normal development of the activity , "causing delays that the entity drags since then".
According to the ministry, the average resolution period is about eight days from the receipt of the last document by the citizen, although it lists several issues "to take into account": that "it is the companies that must send the INSS the certificate correspondent"; that "complete and timely" information must be received from the Civil Registry; that there are two payrolls that are generated, "so that the payments that have not entered one must wait to be incorporated in the next one", and that other organisms intervene in the process.
Aware of the precarious situation in which many households are, the same sources affirm, however, that they are taking measures "related to the automation of processes and the simplification of procedures that allow a reduction in workloads in order to streamline management."
Waiting for these solutions, the indignation of dozens of families grows as the months go by. "Chaos", "shame" or "disaster" are some of the adjectives they use to define a situation that is becoming increasingly unsustainable.