Thursday 04 March 2021

Woman on benefits told to pay back €7,000 because of weekly shop

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Officials say they will review the case of a woman living on welfare benefits who was ordered to pay back €7,000 by judges because her mother paid for her shopping once a week, following a public outcry.

The woman in question has been on benefits since 2015 and because she faced unspecified ‘high fixed costs’, her mother brought her a bag of shopping once a week. People on benefits are required by law to report any type of support they receive.

Somehow, and it is not clear how, council investigators became aware of her case and she was taken to court so they could reclaim the wrongly-paid benefits.

The court then ordered the woman to pay back the estimated value of the shopping which was put at €7,000 plus, reportedly, half that much again in the shape of a fine.

Rosalie van Rijn, social affairs alderwoman in Wijdemeren, in Noord Holland, told broadcaster NOS that the ensuing uproar was sufficient reason to review the case.

‘The judge has decided we were in the right but perhaps not all that is right is just,’ she said.The local council said it will now investigate the why the decision to prosecute the woman was made in 2018.

MPs said the case is reminiscent of the recent childcare benefits scandal in which hundreds of parents were unjustly labelled as fraudsters and relentlessly pursued by the tax office. Social party leader Lilian Marijnissen said on Twitter the government was ‘mired in rules for rules’ sake’.

Appeal

‘There are hundreds of similar cases up and down the country and local council are legally obliged to act but should they always?’, Van Rijn said. ‘It’s painful for Wijdemeren local council to be at the centre of this but I’m happy MPs are getting involved. They can help adjust the rules.’

The woman, who has not been named, has appealed against the decision. The case was heard in October 2019 but the court documents were only published earlier this month ‘in connection with research being undertaken at the University of Utrecht’.

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