Some 50 home help organisations have sent an urgent appeal to the Dutch local authorities’ organisation calling on them to work together to stop more companies going bust.
Several firms have already closed down and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, as local councils squeeze spending.
The home help groups provide cleaning and other services to the frail elderly and handicapped. Until this year, national government was responsible for paying for this but responsibility has been switched to local government.
Councils, in turn, are only providing care for people who do not have friends, neighbours or family to help out instead.
Last Friday, the biggest home help group in the country applied for court protection from creditors because of its financial troubles. Some 12,000 jobs are at risk.
The pre-bankruptcy filing follows a court refusal to allow TSN to cut staff salaries by up to 30%.
At the same time, the budget for home helps has been slashed 40%, putting pressure on wages.
Race to the bottom
The home help organisations say councils should stop going for the very cheapest options, because the pay and working conditions for staff are getting worse.
However, Jantien Kriens, director of the local authorities’ organisation VNG, says companies should make realistic bids when tendering for contracts. ‘Councils have to act to provide continuity of care, but companies should also change their policies,’ she told BNR radio. ‘These cuts are a reality.’
Junior health minister Martin van Rijn told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the voluntary code between councils and home help groups, and which sets fixed prices, should be adhered to.
Van Rijn said if this did not happen, he would make the code a binding agreement.