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June, 2022 Add comment

At last, the degrading welfare rules will be abolished!

At last, the inhuman welfare rules are going to be banned! In one of our articles, we have already paid attention to the horrors that can occur when a patient get welfare benefits. The short-sightedness with which the government deals with personal difficult situations. Municipalities, cutting welfare benefits without mercy or taking them away, is now finally in the crosshairs of the cabinet.

The government also has something to make up to their citizen. Since the benefits affair and the fraud lists that the tax authorities have used. Citizens came on this list without any mercy and without any legit reason, because of an IT-tool that was especially developed for this purpose. Citizens ended up in terrible situations without any real reason, and for many this suffering is still not over. Many of these situations have caused citizens to distrust the government, and according to the Cabinet, something may now be done about this. The Cabinet especially wants to get rid of the almost standard mistrust that the government has towards people entitled to benefits. This should be replaced by trust on the part of the government, but especially by tailor-made solutions in personal situations of citizens.

What the government finds hard to understand is that people simply make mistakes

What the government seems to have trouble in understanding, is that people can simply make mistakes. Mistakes that are not always made on purpose in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the government. People are not always malicious, people are just people. If this law is accepted, mistakes made by benefit recipients from now on should not lead to fines, reductions or termination of benefits.

We have all read the harrowing stories of citizens who received groceries from their family and/or friends and then received less welfare. Or even worse, sometimes losing their welfare altogether. Or patients with high medical expenses when they are supported in the extra expenses as a patient. Then the government thinks that this patient has people with money around and therefore can be totally supported by those people. How can a government ever leave the responsibility for a person to family and friends?

How dependent can you become as a patient in those situations? Has the government ever thought about how people can fall into the trap of manipulating people. Who mistreat the dependent patient emotionally, who can’t say no to anything any more, because he/she can’t live without them. The patient must be grateful to be helped and is immediately silenced. Our editors hear many of these stories and especially how inhuman personal situations are looked upon.

Minister Schouten started an investigation late last year

At the end of last year, Minister Schouten started an investigation into how and why welfare should change for citizens. The intention is to transform the current Participation Act in such a way that it supports citizens to participate in society and, where possible, in the labour market. This has become totally unbalanced over the years. According to Minister Schouten, when helping those entitled to welfare benefits, the starting point was too much how it should be done instead of how it can be done.

“Of course, with the best of intentions, a law was drafted at the time that was formulated too strictly, where there is no room for the citizen who can make mistakes. The participation Act assumed a rationally calculating citizen who oversees everything. But the often very complex rules make this very difficult in reality, which in practice too often invites making mistakes without any ulterior motive”.

Participation Act in balance

On 21st of June, she wrote a letter of presentation to the government on the Participation Act in Balance. We quote Minister Schouten from this letter of presentation.

“In the attached report ‘Participation Act in Balance’ the results of a very extensive policy analysis are described. The conclusion of the policy analysis is clear: the Participation Act is currently out of balance. Due to various developments, there is currently an unequal relationship between (a) the support experienced as limited, (b) the strict penalty regime, and (c) the complex organisation of social security.

As a result, people are insecure, it is difficult to resume work and citizens experience distrust in their contact with the government. Elements that play a role in this are the strict design of the safety net and the focus on direct inclusion in the labour market. I want to restore the balance. This letter of presentation sets out the steps I intend to take. The findings contained in the report and the policy options described serve as my guideline. You can find the link to this letter here, but the link is in Dutch

The current law fails in many ways

Since 2015, welfare recipients fall under the new Participation Act. This law regulates that citizens in need receive Welfare benefits. The second principle of this law is to get citizens back to work. In the report Minister Schouten presented to the cabinet on 21st June, it can be read that in practice very little comes of this. The report makes it clear that it is not, or hardly, worthwhile to work while being on welfare. It even happens that people have less money left on the bottom line because their benefits are cut too much. Young people on welfare are not even allowed to earn extra money.

Minister Schouten thinks this is outdated, but above all it can no longer be explained to the public. She believes that “work should pay off”, and that the fact that a part-time job can also lead to a permanent job is hardly considered. This could in fact reduce the number of benefit recipients.

According to Minister Schouten, the new Participation Act must include rules allowing everyone to earn more on the side. This does not mean that people are only allowed to keep their extra earnings during the first six months. After those six months, the total extra earnings are currently deducted from the benefit, and the welfare recipient does not benefit at all from this. This does not encourage anyone to take steps to find a job from welfare!

Schouten explains: “We are therefore going to ensure that people are allowed to earn more on the side and that they can earn more for longer.”

The proposed changes

The Lower House still has to approve Minister Schouten’s plans. Members of parliament find it important that the new participation act will be a transition to work. That municipalities provide guidance in this with a positive approach. At the moment, the law actually obstructs this. The MPs also believe that more attention should be paid to the provision of training.

If the plans go ahead, benefit recipients will be allowed to receive gifts in kind, such as much-needed groceries. There is also currently a great deal of misery when a benefit recipient finds a temporary job. Returning to welfare is then made much too difficult and takes too much time. This creates income gaps that make people even poorer. But above all, nobody wants that temporary job anymore!

People should also be able to claim a budget to supplement fluctuating monthly incomes. Facilitate data exchange so that people do not have to share their data again and again. This should then speed up the application process. Also, a homeless person does not have to try to find a job for four weeks first (who makes up such rules anyway?!). This way the homeless get out of the picture and that is the last thing we want. These are some of the proposals Minister Schouten makes today in her policy plan ‘Participation Act in Balance’.

If the new law is passed, it will be a great improvement

If all this goes through, it will be a great improvement. Also because the current Participation Act suppresses people and does not give them any freedom of action. In the case of sick people, this is all the sadder. People who have to visit doctors far and wide, have to follow diets for their health. Often need to stock a much larger home pharmacy than the healthy citizen on welfare. More pyjamas, bedding, a new bed faster, new pillows, we don’t often think about it, but costs are so high.

We know that for many of these medical expenses the tax authorities give a partial refund. But the part that has to be financed by the patient himself is extremely burdensome, especially for a person on social assistance. Paid transport to doctors has been made virtually impossible by the insurance companies; you really have to be intensely disabled to get it. If the unsuspecting citizen on welfare gets help with these costs, it can happen just like that, that you are seen as a fraud and that you lose your benefit.

You can then go to court, but the judges also strictly adhere to the rules of participation. And they don’t see the personal story either. We know a person we interviewed for another article who has been litigating for four years against the municipality of Maasgouw, which is reclaiming 26,000 euros. This is only for this reason, help during illness and nothing more.

Let’s hope that the law will be passed soon and that positivity will return to those entitled to social assistance.

Just Think!

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