Women’s refuges failing to tackle problem of spiralling debt: ombudsman

The authorities are not doing enough to help vulnerable women break the cycle of spiralling debt, according to national ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen.

A report by Zutphen says women who take refuge in women’s shelters are faced with incomprehensible procedures and a lack of financial guidance.

Some 12,000 women in the Netherlands, most with children, are taken in by shelters every year. Many have been abused and are suffering from psychological problems. More often than not they have financial problems as well.

One of the issues raised with the ombudsman is the difficulty in sorting out an independent income, a complex and drawn-out process which can cause the women to sink deeper into debt. Often they are unaware that they are expected to pay a contribution towards accommodation in the shelter.

On entering the shelter women are also asked to sign numerous papers, the consequences of which they do not understand.

There are also delays in arranging support for their children because it is financed differently from other means of support and requires the permission of the father. Once the women leave the shelter they are often unable to get access to social housing because they are in debt.

‘The health ministry and the city councils have a duty of care and I urge them to exercise it to make things easier for this vulnerable group,’ van Zutphen writes.





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