Thousands of children in the Czech Republic are deeply in debt, along with tens of thousands more who are now adults who have debts from when they were children. This could be rectified by two legal changes that the Chamber of Deputies, the Czech Republic’s lower house will be debating in the coming weeks.
How has this come about? The most frequent reason for writs against children is the fact that their parents have failed to their pay fees or fines. Over time, the amount owed grows through accrued sanctions and various fees, so that trivial amounts end up in the tens of thousands. Such fees include:
• Fines for riding public transport without a ticket
• For unpaid fees for municipal waste collection
• Library debts (fines for unreturned books, damaged books, etc.)
• Invoices for telecommunication services
Riding without a ticket was the reason prosecution caught up to Lydia, now sixteen. After she entered a foster family a year ago, it was discovered that she had two debt proceedings against her. Both of these were for taking public transport to school without a ticket accompanied by her mother, from when Lydia was 8 and 12 years old. The total amount of outstanding debt is now CZK 28 674 (around £1000 or $1250) the majority of which comprises costs for the prosecution proceedings.
What can be done to resolve this problem? The non-profit organisation People in Need has launched a campaign, Indebted Children, with the advertising agency VMLY&R Prague, to build awareness about this problem among the public, mobilising people and thus creating pressure for the law to be changed in favour of these children.
The primary motif are iconic toys wrapped in distinctive yellow tape marked with "seized in prosecution". The campaign features installations located in the cities that are extracting debt from the most child debtors and is also in online, print and outdoor media.
Almost immediately after launch, Indebted Children became a key topic in the Czech media, with support from celebrities and influencers. Even better news is that the strong pressure is starting to change the political climate and adoption of both bills is gaining stronger support across the political spectrum.