Sunday 24 January 2021

Benefits shopping scandal prompts new draft legislation

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Government party ChristenUnie has presented draft legislation on Friday to put an end to the legal obligation for local councils to fine people on welfare benefits who fail to report extra income – either in the form of cash or shopping.

The move comes after a woman from Wijdemeren was told to pay back some €7,000 by her local council because her mother had given her a bag of groceries every week for the last three years.

Wijdemeren local council had acted according to the letter of the law but the news prompted furious reactions both from the public and politicians.

The fines system formed part of the 2014 Participation law which was supported by a majority of MPs at the time, including ChristenUnie MPs.

‘The law is not doing what it was meant to do and it is often too punitive for people in difficult situations,’ CU MP Eppo Bruins said.

Friends, volunteers or relatives should be given more possibilities to help people on welfare benefits, Bruins said.

‘People should be important, not the system. If people are trying in all honesty to show mercy to a fellow human being by helping them, then the government should be merciful as well,’ Bruins said. He has asked for the legislation to be approved by parliament as a matter of urgency.

Broadcaster NOS said on Friday afternoon that the plan has the support of a clear majority of MPs.

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