Wednesday 08 December 2021

Highest Dutch court apologises to childcare benefit scandal victims

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Netherlands’ highest court, the Raad van State, has apologised to victims of the childcare benefit scandal, saying it had taken the ‘all or nothing’ approach to even minor infringements of the law for far too long.

‘We apologise to parents who ended up in difficulty because we took a strict line for too long,’ Bart Jan van Ettekoven, chairman of the court’s administrative law department, said in a statement. ‘We should have offered these parents better legal protection.’

Tens of thousands of Dutch parents were incorrectly accused of fraud and unjustly ordered to pay back thousands of euros in historic childcare benefit by the Dutch tax office.

On Thursday, Aleid Wolfsen, chairman of the Dutch privacy watchdog AP, told broadcaster NOS that Council of State rulings against victims of the childcare benefits scandal were ‘of an unprecedented seriousness.’

He said that the highest administrative court apparently never noticed that the cases largely concerned people with dual nationalities. ‘This is about such a large mass [of people] that if you haven’t noticed it, then there is something wrong with your perceptive capacities,’ he said.

‘If you [do not protect people against discrimination], you are participating in discriminating against people. That means you are also culpable.’

Disproportional

Between 2004 and 2019, thousands of parents had their childcare benefits stopped and were ordered to repay every penny ever received, sometimes due to the smallest mistakes.

Many were labelled fraudsters, and their details shared across government departments, with devastating consequences for their financial, personal and children’s wellbeing. After a blistering commission report, and the fall of the Dutch government in January,  some 15,000 people have had €30,000 in compensation and thousands are still waiting for their individual cases to be assessed.

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