Junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma is in talks with four Dutch cities about experiments they want to run to relax the rules governing welfare benefits.
Utrecht, Groningen, Wageningen and Tilburg want to overhaul the current welfare rules so that claimants would not have to continually apply for jobs and go on ‘reintegration’ courses, the Volkskrant says on Monday.
The councils think a more friendly approach will work better and cost less than the current regulations. The four cities will meet Klijnsma again next week with more concrete plans. All experiments with alternative ways of dealing with welfare benefits (bijstand) have to be approved by her.
The Volkskrant says a number of other cities, including Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Amsterdam, are also working on new ways of dealing with welfare claimants.
‘Many people on benefits become paralysed by all the rules and checks,’ Eindhoven councillor Saskia Lammers told the paper. In particular, the government’s tone in dealing with claimants and its lack of trust in them have an impact, she said. ‘We have to stimulate rather than sanction,’ she said.
In June, Utrecht city council said it planned to begin experimenting with a ‘basic income’ to replace the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits, if the government gave approval.
Other cities, including Groningen, Maastricht, Gouda, Enschede, Nijmegen and Wageningen, are said to be looking along the same lines.
VVD councillors in many councils oppose the ‘softer’ approach, the Volkskrant says. ‘You get the most out of people by challenging them, not allowing them to sit around doing nothing,’ said Amsterdam VVD councillor Marianne Poot.
At the moment, someone claiming bijstand is required to apply for a number of jobs a month, take part in reintegration sessions, follow courses and do voluntary work.
Council have to check they are meeting the conditions and to reduce benefits if they are not. Claimants who find a part-time job are allowed to keep up to €196 a month on top of their benefits.
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