In particular, refugees find it hard to pass – only one third managed to do so within the allotted time frame, the report said. In addition, the number of people taking the more difficult language tests has plummeted from 20% to just 2%.
‘Everyone benefits from a fast and dynamic integration policy,’ spokesman Kees Vendrik said. ‘The current policy does not bring results.’
Since 2013, people who are required by law to go through the integration process – most non-EU citizens with some exceptions – have to pay for lessons themselves. They can borrow up to €10,000 to pay for courses.
In addition, the provision of courses was transferred from local government to the private sector and €333m was slashed from the budget.
Some 165 companies now offer integration courses but there is no proper system of quality control. Nor is there any proof that going through an integration course actually means that new arrivals participate more in Dutch society, the report said.
The audit office concludes that giving new arrivals responsibility to go through the integration process does not work and that most need support to find their way. Limited information – often in Dutch only – is an added problem.
In addition, the education level of new arrivals should be taken into account so that the success of the process can be quantified more accurately, the audit office said.
It recommends that local councils be charged with providing proper information and that there be more transparency in the quality and success rate of the different courses.
Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, who brought in the changes, said that improvements do need to be made. In particular, he said, he is taking steps to improve monitoring of course quality and will improve his reporting to parliament about the success rates and other issues.