Wednesday 08 December 2021

Victims of childcare benefit scandal press minister for faster compensation

Alexandra van Huffelen (white coat) speaking to parents in Rotterdam. Photo: ANP/Ramon van Flymen

More than 100 women have taken part in a protest in Rotterdam calling for the government to speed up compensation for families caught up in the childcare benefits scandal.

MPs Renske Leijten of the Socialist Party, Farid Azarkan of Denk and Pieter Omtzigt also joined the ‘march for mothers’ on Thursday morning from Rotterdam city hall to the tax office building on Laan op Zuid.

They handed over a list of demands to caretaker junior finance minister Alexandra van Huffelen, who was appointed to manage the process of compensating people who were wrongly accused of fraudulently claiming childcare allowance.

One woman named as Sharda, from Capelle aan de IJssel, told Rijnmond that she had been ordered to repay €15,000 with a deadline of just two weeks.

‘it started with 25 blue tax envelopes in my letter box. They were all delivered on the same day. I thought the postman had made a mistake,’ she said.

‘The more I called the tax office, the more I was branded a fraudster. It went on so long that I started to believe it myself. For 11 years I thought it was my own fault.’

Compensation

The cabinet has agreed to pay €30,000 in compensation upfront to those affected by the scandal, but the process has become bogged down in procedural delays. The €30,000 payments had been promised by May 1, buy by mid-June less than half the families who put in a claim had received it.

Van Huffelen said the process had proven to be more complicated than it first seemed. ‘Doing justice to parents is one of the most important things,’ she said. ‘That means they get the money back that they were unjustly required to repay, with additional compensation.

‘If we can do it quickly we will, but we also see that the situation for some parents is so incredibly complex that their money is being reclaimed in all kinds of different ways.’

The entire cabinet resigned in January after a damning report found that thousands of parents had been the victims of an ‘unparalleled wrong’ caused by the tax office’s zero-tolerance approach to benefit fraud.

Some families were forced to pay back tens of thousands of euros and banned from claiming in future years because they made simple errors such as forgetting to sign a form or not submitting a document.

The statistics agency CBS said last month that more than 1,100 children had been taken into care after their parents were branded as fraudsters.

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