Almost five hundred sets of parents who were wrongly accused of child benefit fraud have received at least €30,000 each in compensation.
Dutch media reported that the ‘first group’ of 470 parents have had a refund paid to their bank accounts, after the tax office agreed to waive any debts they still had, so that the money was not instantly re-confiscated.
Earlier this month, the entire Dutch government resigned in the wake of a blistering report which said that thousands of parents had been the victims of an ‘unparalleled wrong’.
A tough approach by the benefits office had meant that for years people who had made innocent mistakes on forms, such as misreporting €100 or missing a signature, had been labelled fraudsters. All child benefit they had ever been given was demanded back, leaving many with enormous debt problems, lost businesses, broken marriages and huge psychological damage.
The government has pledged to compensate all of these parents with at least €30,000 each. Some of the worst affected have already been paid initial compensation and are awaiting rulings on how much they are due back from money they were forced to repay the benefits office.
Around 16,000 parents have been registered with the tax office as ‘victims’ – although the total could be as high as 30,000 according to MP Pieter Omtzigt. Families who suspect they may have been targeted have until February 15 to register their claim. The compensation payments will be made by May 1.
Although it was not part of the scope of the critical report last December, the tax office has admitted that 11,000 parents with dual nationality were targeted. Caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte has apologised ‘if’ this was the case and pledged to root out racism and make government more open.
A group of 20 parents has launched legal action against five ministers and former ministers claiming they were criminally negligent.
Meanwhile, a special commission for actual damages is set to decide whether parents have incurred even more actual and ‘intangible’ damages that need to be compensated.
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