Government gets tough on welfare benefits

Changes to the Dutch welfare law mean everyone will have to wait for weeks before they can claim the benefits, and people who refuse to look for work or who wear unsuitable clothing such as a burka will have their benefits stopped for three months.

Junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma on Tuesday sent a string of amendments to parliament for its approval. She hopes the changes will come into effect next July.

At the moment, local councils, which administer welfare (bijstand) have more flexibility about cutting benefits for people who don’t meet the rules. But Klijnsma wants more uniformity in order to eradicate differences.

Aggression

People who behave or dress ‘inappropriately’ and can’t find a job will have their benefits cut for a standard three months. Aggression against civil servants and failure to prove they have tried to find work will also result in a three-month stoppage.

Claimants will also have to wait four weeks before receiving benefits and have to prove they are looking for a job during this period. This will not apply to people whose entitlement to unemployment benefit (ww) ends and who are forced to move to the welfare system.

In addition, people sharing a house will no longer be able to claim separate benefits but will be treated as a formal household with lower benefits. This means a mother and son on welfare will be treated as a couple and entitled to less money.

Pensions

The shared household clause is also being applied to other benefits such as the state pension, which will affect 2% of pensioners.

In total, 36,000 people claiming welfare will have their benefits cut by this change – or some 10% of the total. The reduction will save €95m a year, the Volkskrant says.

Left-wing opposition MPs accused Klijnsma of further stigmatising welfare claimants, while the Socialist Party described the plans as a ‘disaster’.