Tuesday 05 July 2022

Welfare claimants should not be penalised for receiving gifts, says Schouten

Benefits should not be cut automatically if relatives help out with people’s shopping, Schouten said. Photo: Depositphotos

People living on welfare support will no longer have their benefits cut automatically if they receive help or gifts from friends and relatives, poverty minister Carola Schouten has said.

The government plans to reform the Participation Act to remove the ‘sharp edges’ and allow councils to take personal circumstances into account.

The rules have been criticised as too harsh in the wake of a series of cases, such as that of a woman from Wijdemeren who was ordered to repay €7,000 because her mother sometimes paid for her groceries. The fine was reduced on appeal to €2,835.

Schouten wrote in a letter to parliament that the enforcement of the rules was ‘unbalanced’ and help from friends and family was too often used as a reason to reduce people’s payments.

She said benefits should also not be cut if a friend or relative moved in temporarily to help with a ‘crisis situation’.

Research for the social affairs ministry found that people risked being ‘squeezed’ if the rules were strictly applied on several criteria at once, Schouten wrote. She said she wanted to create more room for the ‘human aspect’ and talk to councils about what types of gifts should be exempt when calculating people’s assets.

Schouten has announced other measures to ease the restrictions on welfare benefits. In March she raised the maximum age at which children can live at home without affecting the amount their parents receive from 21 to 27.

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