The more than 10,000 households that live below the subsistence level due to government intervention will have to wait until Prince’s Day for a solution. Minister Schouten (Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions) informed the Lower House today that she is investigating various options, but still needs the summer to reach a decision.
The affected families are couples, usually with children, one of whom has no income and the other has a very low income, such as a limited disability benefit or a low salary. The municipality supplements the income of the two to social assistance level.
But because of that supplement, allowances such as healthcare or rent allowance are canceled unintentionally and unjustly. As a result, the victims fall into poverty and, in many cases, end up in debt. Because the recipient of the allowances has no insight into how the schemes work, they often do not realize that they are being unjustly cut.
Nieuwsuur spoke in March with duped Gracilia Slijngard, who has 5 euros a day to feed three mouths:
“No one can explain to us why we are in this situation”
The problem has been going on since 2016 and is so complex that judges designated it as one of eleven abdominal pain files for which a solution is not readily available. Previous ministers always postponed the file, despite questions from the ombudsman and from the House.
Nieuwsuur and NRC drew attention to this problem in March. In response to our questions, Minister Schouten said he was “well on his way” to a solution. Before the summer there had to be “clarity” about a new approach, she promised. Now she underlines that the solution will really come, albeit a little later.
In the meantime, municipalities can help the affected families by supplementing them from the special assistance to the subsistence level. Such a remedy is untaxed, which prevents it from leading to a reduction in benefits again.
Maarten Bockting, who assists victims in Dronten as a social counselor, sees that this ’emergency bond’ is not a solution for everyone. “Of the five thousand families that this happens to, I think four thousand do not find their way to the municipality.” Some municipalities look for these households themselves, others do not. These victims will therefore remain condemned to an existence below the poverty line at least until September.
That means that Bockting is not happy that the uncertainty persists. “That is bitter, and all the more bitter for those who just live in the wrong municipality.”