DOETINCHEM – More and more families are having trouble getting through these months. Nationally, the Sports & Culture Youth Foundation reports that parents are the first to cut back on their children’s sports or music lessons. President Iwan Schoppema of the Voetbal Vereniging Doetinchem sees it too.
“We definitely feel it in our association. 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 Schoppema, these problems come to light because no payment is made. “We must carry out more and more collections of contributions. We always try to talk to the parents and we offer them to pay in instalments. 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.”
‘It’s only going to get worse’
Ger Melissen, chairman of Volunteers, Sports and Leisure in the Social Council, is very concerned about the situation and emphasizes that VV Doetinchem is not the only one experiencing this problem: “We see this with an increasing number of associations. Families withdraw their membership due to financial hardship. And it only gets 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 the number of families in need is 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.”
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 ‘Meedoen event’. 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.
For persons over the age of 17, the income requirement of 120 percent of the assistance standard applies. As soon as a family is registered, it receives a number of points per child, which can then be exchanged for sports and cultural activities.
Sportswear, for example, is not included in the package
The participant arrangement sounds fine, but according to those involved, it needs to be changed. This is mainly because the focus is mainly on services and not on goods: “As a resident, you can only choose from the options that are on the website. But sportswear, for example, is not included in the package. And the income requirement also makes it complicated. For to me, sports must be accessible to everyone, including clothes. Without limits and restrictions,” says Ger Melissen.
Chairman Iwan Schoppema also acknowledges that there are problems with the scheme: “We have a lot to do with parents who do not speak Dutch. 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.”
‘No need to adjust standard’
Last weekend, the Food Bank communicated that the criteria for people being entitled to a food package will be expanded. This raises the question of whether the participation scheme is still sufficient in the current times, or whether it is time for a review of the scheme.
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 Participation Scheme, so we hope that everyone who is entitled to it will apply.”
As this change will not be introduced until 2023, the councilor is considering increasing the number of points per family in the short term. 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, that almost never happens because people don’t report out of shame, says Peter Bob Peerenboom, chairman of Platform Poverty Fighting Doetinchem.
He encourages people to still report: “Please indicate if you are struggling financially. As soon as people are on our radar, we can really help.”