“We definitely feel it in our association”, emphasizes chairman Schoppema. “The neighborhood where our club is located is not rich. There are many families who have a minimum income. These families are the first to cut back on sports activities.” According to the chairman, these problems come to light because there is no payment. “We have to carry out more and more collections of contributions,” says Schoppema. “We always try to talk to the parents and we offer them to pay in installments. We really want to keep the youth with us, but it is sometimes quite difficult. As a club, you also have to have your income.”
Ger Melissen, who is involved in sports in the Doetinchem municipality’s Social Council, is very concerned about the situation and emphasizes that VV Doetinchem is not the only association where this problem can be seen: “We signal this in more and more associations. Families pull their membership back due to financial hardship. And it’s only getting worse. Participating in sports is no longer for everyone.”
‘Working poor’ comes into the picture
According to Shahnaz Saleky, founder and coordinator of the Poverty-Emergency platform, the fact that families in need are increasing is because the group is expanding: “I used to help single mothers with children who were also in debt. But the ‘working poor’ now come into the picture. It is the middle class people who initially get along easily, but can no longer handle it. They are now also knocking on the door of the minima companies.”
‘beach and ship’
Shahnaz also hears why this group is having an extra hard time: “Since most facilities are only available to families with a net income of up to 120 percent of the welfare standard, this group falls between two chairs.” To support poor families in sports and culture, Doetinchem has developed the ‘Participation Arrangement’. Under this scheme, children and young people up to the age of 17 can register if they come from a family with an income of up to 130 percent of the social assistance standard.
The income requirement of 120 percent of the assistance standard applies to people over the age of seventeen. As soon as a family is registered, it receives a number of points per child, which they can then exchange for sports and cultural activities. The participation arrangement sounds fine, but according to those involved, it needs a redesign. This is mainly because it focuses primarily on services and not on things.
“As a resident, you can only choose between the options on the website,” says Melissen. “But sportswear, for example, is not included in the package. And the income requirement also makes it complicated. As far as I’m concerned, sports should be available to everyone, including clothes, without limits and restrictions.”
‘Don’t speak Dutch’
VV Doetinchem chairman Scholtema also acknowledges that there are problems with the scheme: “We have a lot to do with parents who do not speak the Dutch language. In particular, they do not know how to find their way. The point system is also very complicated, they just don’t understand it and the kids are the victims.”
Is the ‘participation scheme’ still sufficient?
Last weekend, the Food Bank communicated that they are expanding the criteria for people to be entitled to a food package. This raises the question of whether the Participation Scheme is still sufficient at the present time, or whether it is time for a review of the scheme.
No need to adjust
According to councilor Jorik Huizinga, however, it is not necessary to adjust the standard: “On Prince’s Day, it was announced that the minimum wage will increase in 2023, so this means that the statutory social minimum will also increase. This means that a larger group within falls under the standard and can make use of the scheme, so we hope that everyone who is entitled to it will apply.”
As this change will not be introduced until 2023, the councilor indicates that in the short term they are considering increasing the number of points per family. In this way, the participating families can choose more activities.
Without a signal, help is impossible
In addition to the Participation Scheme, there are other funds that people can claim. However, the most important thing is that the problem is identified early. Unfortunately, this rarely happens because people do not come forward due to shame. Peter Bob Peerenboom, chairman of the Platform Poverty Fighting Doetinchem, encourages people to report: “Please indicate if you are struggling financially. As soon as people are on our radar, we can really help.”
Photo: REGIO8 (not the children from the story)