The Dutch government needs to increase basic welfare payments, standardise systems and make sure people are aware of all the help they are entitled to, the national ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen said on Monday.
Planned increases in the minimum wage and benefits will only help to a limited extent and ‘as long as people are in financial trouble, they cannot work on their future’, Van Zutphen said, in an appeal to mark World Poverty Day.
People living on welfare benefits, those who can only work part-time because of disabilities and pensioners with less than the state pension because they have not lived in the Netherlands long enough are among those who face real difficulty making ends meet, the ombudsman said.
The government is increasing the minimum wage 10% next year and is giving poor households up to €1,300 to offset the extra cost of energy. But local councils are free to decide how to implement the energy help, and there are wide regional variations.
‘The question of whether someone can make ends meet depends too much on where they happens to live,’ Van Zutphen said. ‘People are often not aware of all the options for financial support and those who are most vulnerable financially face the most difficulty in submitting applications and communicating changes.’
The government must ensure that there is an adequate social minimum income and that people are no longer penalised financially if they start earning a little more, the ombudsman said.
Last month it emerged that in a worst-case scenario, low income people who add €1,000 to their monthly salary only actually benefit by an additional €130 in spending power.
About one million Dutch people live on an income around the social minimum, which the ombudsman’s office defines as around €1,300 for a single person and €1,760 for a couple.
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