Saturday 15 August 2020

Local councils must get welfare claimants to do something, minister says


Local authorities will have to make sure that everyone claiming welfare benefits either works for their money, gets training or is actively being helped to find work, social affairs minister Tamara van Ark has told MPs.

A the moment councils, which are responsible for welfare benefits (bijstand), take different approaches with some making no demands on claimants and others taking a more active approach, Van Ark said in her briefing.

It will still be up to local authorities to decide what people should do, and everyone should be made an offer which reflects their personal circumstances, Van Ark said.

She is to discuss the new approach with local council officials in the coming months before drawing up amendments to the current law on benefits and participation.

‘It is about giving something back to society,’ she told the Volkskrant in an interview. ‘It has to be an offer that suits you, but it will be up to local councils to decide how that should be organised.’

In addition, local authorities will have to do more to make sure that welfare claimants who don’t speak Dutch make a real effort to learn the language, Van Ark says. ‘The language requirement is currently law but many councils don’t bother with it,’ she said.

Officials will have to get tough on the estimated 50,000 people who just don’t want to work. ‘I am also a minister on behalf of taxpayers who pick up the welfare bills,’ she told the Volkskrant.

Earlier this week the government’s socio-economic think-tank SCP said that government efforts to get welfare benefit claimants and people with disabilities back into the workforce had largely failed.

In particular, people with disabilities were less likely to have a paid job than they did when sheltered work schemes were more widespread, the SCP said.

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