Switzerland under fire for cutting payments for gluten free children

From January 2022, Switzerland will remove a subsidy payment made to children who cannot eat gluten.

A child sits with a piece of bread and a can of soup
Switzerland will no longer make payments to families of people with children who cannot eat gluten? Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The payments are made to families with children who have celiac disease, which means they cannot consume foods with gluten such as pasta and bread. 

The government has come under fire for the removal, with critics saying it places undue pressure on poorer families with children. 

Why is there a ‘celiac’ subsidy in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, celiac disease has been placed on the list of ‘birth defects’, which thereby entitles anyone with a child with birth defects to a compensation payment. 

The amounts paid range from CHF600 to CHF1450 per year. No replacement payments will be put in place. 

The government has however now said that as the condition can be treated relatively easily, it should no longer be the target of compensation payments. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

For example, Swiss health insurance pays for medications which can be used to treat the condition. 

The government will phase out the payments, which are for each child under the age of 20 who genuinely has a celiac condition, on January 1st, 2022. 

‘They don’t want to serve rice everyday’

While gluten free diets have grown in popularity in Switzerland and elsewhere in recent years, the amount of people who actually have the condition is relatively rare. 

Around 80,000 people in Switzerland – roughly one percent of the population – genuinely have a celiac condition. Around 3000 people received the lump sum payment in 2020. 

Tina Toggenburger, President of the IG Celiac Disease Association, told 20 Minutes that there would be huge financial implications for families who were forced to do without the subsidy. 

“Those affected by celiac disease have to reckon with significant additional costs – around 200 francs per month – compared to a normal diet,” she said. 

VERDICT: How to save money when raising children in Switzerland

“Celiac disease is not a lifestyle disease, it has massive health implications. This must be taken into account in future decisions.”

Toggenburger said that while the medicines may be free, the additional costs of a gluten free diet would not be covered. 

“Financially weak families have no means to pay their child so much more expensive food. And they don’t want to serve rice every day.”

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Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.