Youngsters with special needs isolated by benefits maze: Ombudsman


The complications of the benefits system is making it too difficult for young people with special needs to get a job, putting them at risk of exclusion from society, the national ombudsman has found.

There are some two million special needs youngsters in the Netherlands who receive state support. Once they reach 18, rules and regulations change, making it difficult for them to navigate the bureaucratic maze that awaits them, for instance if they should want to work part-time.

Once they decide to combine work and benefits they are confronted with a huge amount of administrative red tape, and an uncertain financial future, ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen said in his report.

Instead of helping special needs youngsters, laws and regulations make their lives more difficult, Van Zutphen said. Organisations and agencies lack the necessary know-how to help, and youngsters are often advised to forget about a job because it is to difficult to square with the regulations, he said.

One of the people interviewed for the report, which is part of a larger ombudsman inquiry into low income groups, is 21-year-old student Lisa.

She has autism and cannot take on permanent work next to her studies. ‘I would like to work occasionally but the rules make it very difficult. If I want to get some work experience, for instance, my grant is compromised. [Student funding body] Duo and the local council are shunting me from one agency to another. Nobody can really give me any answers,’ she said.

The ombudsman says a drastic simplification of the benefits rules is the answer.  As changing the law will take time, he has come up with a number of short term recommendations, including better information for youngster about their situation once they turn 18, more personal coaching and the promotion of suitable part-time jobs.

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