The Cabinet provides a comprehensive approach to poverty and debt news

News feature | 12-07-2022 | 18:25

For a large group of Dutch, livelihoods are under pressure. For them, the daily worry is about getting the ends met, due to insufficient or insecure income or because they have to deal with problematic debt. It causes stress, health problems, social isolation and shame and puts children at a disadvantage for a long time, often from generation to generation. The government wants to break this vicious circle and use a broad, multi-year approach to better prevent money worries, significantly reduce the number of people in poverty and debt, and improve the livelihoods of all Dutch citizens.

The government’s approach to money worries, poverty and debt consists of a wide range of actions, initiatives and initiatives in various areas. This is also related to other government programs, such as the National Liveability and Safety Program (VRO) and the Equal Opportunities Alliance (OCW). In implementing this, the government will work with municipalities, social organizations, business, implementing organizations, academia and experience experts. The concrete targets are a halving – compared to 2015 – of the number of children growing up in poverty by 2025, and a halving of the number of people in poverty and the number of households with problem debt by 2030.

Minister Carola Schouten: ‘The goals are ambitious. At the same time, reality is unruly and a larger group of households are in danger of getting into financial difficulties due to the high prices of energy and groceries. The government is fully committed to measures to limit the consequences and continues to look for solutions. But we must also look further and ensure that the number of people in poverty and with problem debt falls structurally over time. These plans are the starting point for this. ‘

Work more rewarding, more attention to financial education

As part of the approach, the government is raising the minimum wage and expanding the extra income limits in social benefits so that the work can pay off. People on unemployment benefits receive extra help to find work. Every four years, the government examines whether the social minimum is sufficient to live on and participate in society. We make financial events and facilities simpler and more accessible so that they are better utilized. The government will actively point this out to people who are entitled to schemes as far as possible. More emphasis will be placed on financial education of children and young people and the prevention of financial worries during life events, such as a divorce or turning 18. We are expanding children’s facilities for families with a minimum income, such as sports or music education, with activities and internships or internships that allow children to strengthen their skills and self-confidence.

Minister Carola Schouten: ‘If people do not make ends meet, it will make it harder for them to participate fully in our society. It concerns us all. Poverty and debt can really happen to anyone. The Netherlands must be a society where no one is on the sidelines. Where we take care of each other and keep an eye on each other’s problems. ‘

Poverty often remains hidden, for example by shame. The government wants to improve the signaling of poverty through, among other things, a broader deployment of bridge officers in schools. They offer parents a listening ear and are in direct contact with both school and social workers in the neighborhood. In several municipalities, local alliances are formed between public and private parties to combat poverty in families. The Cabinet is also taking steps to improve access to oral care for minimum incomes and wants to ensure that more children go to the dentist in neighborhoods where dental visits are low.

Debt on pause, better help for entrepreneurs

People often struggle with debt for a long time. This limits them in everyday life. The government wants faster and more efficient debt counseling, with more restructuring loans, where the municipality takes over other creditors’ debt, the opportunity to put debt on hold and better debt assistance for self-employed entrepreneurs. The municipalities get extra resources for this. There will be a single counter for, as far as possible, state collection, so that people with several debt obligations have to deal with one bailiff and can make a joint payment scheme. The government is also making extra money available to the municipalities for early identification of debt. They can then provide better help to the residents to prevent the payment arrears from increasing further.

The government is investing in innovative approaches to tackling poverty and debt in twenty vulnerable neighborhoods. These are, for example, projects where private companies make social investments (social impact bonds) and care providers are allowed to deviate from the rules in the event of an accumulation of problems. We use the knowledge and experience gained to start these approaches in several neighborhoods.

A government that works for people

With the integrated approach outlined above, the government is working towards a government that offers low-threshold assistance, stands by people and gives them confidence. For too long it has been assumed that people understand the rules and therefore follow them. While rules and regulations are often complex and mistakes are made quickly, sometimes resulting in high recoveries and fines. It has damaged confidence in the government. The government wants to ensure that people who are in trouble feel seen and heard, know where they are going and get good support so they can move on with their lives.

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