Today, National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen, also on behalf of Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer, presented the report ‘Caribbean Children of the Account’ to Alida Francis, Government Commissioner for St. Eustatius. State Secretary Alexandra Van Huffelen (Kingdom Relations and Digitalization) also received a copy.
This report shows the bottlenecks faced by single parents and children in the Caribbean Netherlands living in poverty. Once again, they demand the attention and action of local and national government. The National Ombudsman, the Children’s Ombudsman and other organizations have been pointing this out for a long time. And it is still necessary, again, according to the conversations that the ombudsmen and their investigators had with single parents and children. Previous research has been conducted into poverty among older and young adults in the Caribbean Netherlands.
Despite measures taken to combat poverty on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the National Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children remain concerned that young parents and their children are growing up in poverty. Urgent and intensive cooperation between the national government and the public entities on the three islands is necessary. The ombudsmen here explicitly see an instructor role for the Ministry of the Interior and State. The procedure is not simple, too many ministries and (governmental) organizations are involved. Nevertheless, a structural and long-term effort is needed to reduce poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands.
Too big differences between the Caribbean and the European Netherlands
The ombudsmen believe that single parents and their children can expect the government to help them quickly and carefully improve their situation. They must be able to build a stable future for themselves and their children. There are too great differences in the facilities in the European Netherlands, and a social minimum must be established based on the real cost of living on the islands. This can only be achieved through a better knowledge of the problems that exist.
Reinier van Zutphen, National Ombudsman: “It is so important that single parents in the Caribbean Netherlands are not only helped with more money. They and their children have the right to a rapid improvement of facilities. This is only possible with better cooperation between the various governments and organizations, both in the European and Caribbean Netherlands. “
Consequences for the children
Poverty has major consequences for children’s upbringing, especially if their parents are single. In conversations with parents and children and from previous research, it appears that single parents do not have enough space to give their children care, love and attention. The parents are pressured and stressed by all the (financial) problems. They are also generally away from home to work. This ensures that there can be less structure, rules, support and interest for the children.
Margrite Kalverboer, Ombudsman for Children: “Children who grow up in poverty often experience a number of problems in different areas of life. Therefore, there is a great risk that poverty will pass on to them and pass on from generation to generation. It is important that break this pattern. “
The Ombudsmen make the following recommendations to the Secretary of State for Home and State Relations in the light of all discussions and findings:
- Create an integrated approach to (access to) care, with special attention and an approach aimed at the children.
- Focus on more financial (debt) help and available legal provisions.
- Make parental support negotiable, accessible and accessible.
- Make childcare available free of charge.
- Offers affordable courses so that (single) parents can continue their education.
In November 2022, a conference will be held in the Caribbean Netherlands. Here, the ombudsmen and their colleagues from Curaçao and Sint Maarten will further discuss the broad approach to poverty.
Since 2010, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have been special municipalities in the Netherlands. Together they form the Caribbean Holland. Since then, the National Ombudsman has dealt with complaints about state authorities on the islands. Since 2012, he has also dealt with complaints about local authorities or public bodies. The Children’s Ombudsman has been handling complaints in the Caribbean Netherlands since 2011.