News and opinion
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Refurbished prams for refugees in Greece and for Amstelveen's minima
At 'Wijkcentrum Westend' in Amstelveen, volunteers refurbish prams, buggies and car seats. "We want to transport most of them to Lesbos and other Greek islands, where these tools will be very welcome for refugee mothers with children," says Stef Walsma, who works at Participe Amstelland as neighbourhood coach for the neighbourhoods Westwijk and Bovenkerk. "But we cannot transport everything to Greece. That's why we also want to offer some prams, buggies and at least car seats free of charge to Amstelveen's minima."
It is clear that refugees - who arrive on Lesbos and the other Greek islands after a long and arduous journey - have been able to take few possessions with them. Mothers in particular often lack essential relief items and supplies for their children, such as prams and buggies."
"My wife follows the Because We Carry Foundation. A large foundation that helps refugee mothers around the world with emergency aid and supplies," Walsma says. "This foundation recently received a large consignment of abandoned prams, buggies, maxicosi and car seats from Schiphol Airport. This gave me the idea to have these children's items cleaned and refurbished so that they can find a new purpose among refugees in Greece."
From Schiphol Airport
It is unclear why travellers leave these items at our national airport. "It may be that travellers sometimes spend more money taking such prams and pushchairs as luggage than buying a new one in the country of arrival. Either way, the Foundation and we are happy that we can now put these items to good use."
Before the prams are ready for transport to south-eastern Europe, they need to be refurbished and cleaned. Seven enthusiastic volunteers from 'Our second House Foundation' (OTT) do this as part of their day care. The volunteers mostly have mild disabilities.
On the day your reporter visits, Aafke, Hennie and Jeanine proudly show off their newly refurbished prams. In a special room on the first floor, about a hundred more are waiting to be refurbished and cleaned. Walsma: "Originally, we wanted Ukrainian mothers to do this work. But because they recently moved from the old Griffioen theatre to a much smaller location, that didn't happen. But not to worry: the volunteers from OTT are a welcome replacement. Everyone is very enthusiastic."
According to Stef Walsma, it is not yet entirely clear how many new prams Schiphol will continue to supply in the future. "But there is a good chance that we can continue for a while. Especially after the holiday period, I expect more items to have been left behind."
Also for Amstelveen minima
The neighbourhood coach hopes that most of the prams and buggies will be ready for transport by the end of September. The latter will be done by other organisations. "Incidentally, we will not be able to transport everything to Greece. This certainly applies to car seats. Therefore, we want to give a number of Amstelveen families and single parents with little money the chance to collect a free pram, buggy, maxicosi or car seat from us." Interested parties can email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo: Volunteers Hennie, Aafke and Jeanine together with Stef Walsma with the refurbished prams and buggies. Photo: Bart Stam/Amstelveen Minima).
Saturday, August 5, 2023
Food Bank climbs to second place charity
Food Banks Netherlands is now in second place among charities with the highest brand strength, the combination of brand awareness, appreciation and loyalty. This is according to the annual 'Charities Brand Survey' by Hendrik Beerda Brand Consultancy. The research firm interviews respondents each year on both the reputation and growth potential of charities in the Netherlands. Since 2010, market researcher Hendrik Beerda's agency, together with the University of Amsterdam, has asked around 19,000 donors questions about charities.
War in Ukraine
According to Hendrik Beerta Brand Consultancy, the fact that the Food Bank rose from sixth to second place in a year is partly because the Dutch are increasingly focused on problems at home. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, organisations supporting poor (African) countries are increasingly disappearing from the radar of Dutch donors. In contrast, Giro555 has actually skyrocketed thanks to the fundraising campaign for Ukraine in 2022. However, Unicef and 'Médecins Sans Frontières' are still in the top ten strongest brands. Charities that have seen their position decline the most since the Ukraine war are the Leprosy Foundation, Cordaid and SOS Children's Villages.
Rise Food Bank
The Food Bank has made an impressive advance from 50th to second place since 2016, right behind KWF Cancer Relief. The main reason for this is that Dutch people are increasingly focusing on the problems at home. The Food Bank benefits from this.
The top ten charities in 2023 are as follows (in brackets the position in 2022):
1 (1) KWF Cancer Relief
2 (6) Food Bank
3 (2) KiKa
4 (3) Heart Foundation
5 (4) Red Cross
6 (7) UNICEF
7 (5) World Wildlife Fund
8 (11) Ronald McDonald Children's Fund
9 (10) Doctors without Borders
10 (8) CliniClowns
See further https://nieuws.voedselbankennederland.nl/228549...# and https://www.hendrikbeerda.nl/merkenonderzoek/goede-doelen/ (Photo: Hans van Rhoon-Hollandse Hoogte/ANP).
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Court rules against Amstelveen municipality for cutting welfare benefits
The Amsterdam court has ruled in favour of an Amstelveen resident in his dispute with the municipality of Amstelveen. The man had appealed to the administrative court against the reduction of his social assistance benefit in 2022. This was because a home visit, which the man had been willing to cooperate with, was inconvenient for him in March last year. The Amstelveen municipality must reverse the reduction of the social assistance benefit and also pay the court fee and legal costs.
In January 2022, a grandson of the Amstelveen man, who is on welfare benefit, registered at his address. He went to live in a room there. He also helped his grandfather with groceries and drove him to appointments.
This prompted the Amstelveen municipality to conduct a further investigation. This was done on the basis of the Participation Act. If there is a joint household or cost-sharing, the municipality can decide to reduce the social assistance benefit or even stop it altogether. Incidentally, the municipality suspected that the grandson's friends and his son also lived at the address but did not tell the claimant.
The municipal board invited the man for an interview in February 2022. When the man failed to appear, the municipal council suspended his welfare benefits. They did, however, make a new appointment for March, where the Amstelvener did appear.
At the time of this interview, he was told that a home visit would follow to establish his living situation. The man refused this as he needed to see his GP (general practitioner) and his drug-addicted daughter, about whom he was deeply concerned. He did offer that the home visit could take place at another time but this was again refused by the client manager. There was no home visit, after which the municipality decided to cut the benefit to 30 per cent of the social assistance standard on 5 August 2022.
A hearing at the administrative court in Amsterdam followed on 6 April 2023. According to the municipality, the man's refusal for the home visit violated the so-called duty of cooperation. But according to the judge, there were insufficient reasons for the municipality to make such a home visit. Therefore, he did not have to cooperate in this either and the reduction of the social assistance benefit is unfounded. (Photo: KRL Lawyers).
Saturday 8 July 2023
No client council for welfare recipients in Amstelveen
Municipalities have client councils that act as representatives of all social assistance beneficiaries. But welfare beneficiaries in Amstelveen have been waiting for years to find out who their representatives actually are. And more importantly, how do social assistance beneficiaries get in touch with these representatives?
The Platform Amstelveen Minima knows that the alderman for work and income has asked, among others, a former welfare manager to take a seat on his personal advisory council for minima. She is therefore your representative for the alderman. But is she also for you?
This is exactly what welfare recipients experience when they have no access to their client council. Your council to whom you would like to send your signals.
After all, sending signals as a welfare recipient is not possible in Amstelveen. Not via e-mail and not via a walk-in consultancy. Nor via the municipality’s website or a telephone number. Completely inaccessible, except for the alderman.
The alderman who can then indicate in his proposals for poverty reduction, minimum benefits or imposed obligations in the Participation Act that he has listened to the target group.
Listening and hearing what it is like to survive at the bottom of society is what representatives should articulate. But if you don't pick up signals...
The municipal council, whose job it is to monitor the college of B&W on your behalf, does not seem interested in your interests. In fact, the city council knows this and lets it be. Except through a secret invitation sent to a select audience to come to the town hall on Wednesday 12 July to talk about minimum allowances. Starting at 11.30am.
As Platform Amstelveen Minima, we do want to hear from you about what could be done better for welfare beneficiaries. By the way, one party that is independent and does stand up for your interests is the FNV Trade Union, Sector Benefit recipients. You can reach us via the website (www.amstelveense-minima.nl).
Platform Amstelveen Minima
Monday, 26 June 2023
‘Netherlands violates fundamental children’s rights’
The Netherlands is underperforming when it comes to children’s rights. This is according to the KidsRights Index 2023. The international children’s rights organization KidsRights of the same name published this report today, together with Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The KidsRights Index annually measures how 193 countries around the world deal with children’s rights in five areas. These are life, health, education, protection and the climate for children’s rights. This year, for the first time, the organization also looked at climate change, thus the sixth criterion.
The Netherlands dropped from fourth to twentieth place, dropping out of the top ten for the first time. According to KidsRights, this significant drop is mainly due to poor scores on health and children’s rights. Germany and Belgium ranked fifth and 18th respectively. The top three consists of Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
The Netherlands underperforms in terms of 'available budget'. This means that the government spends a very low percentage of its expenditure on children. The country also achieves the lowest possible score on ‘child’s importance’. This means that the Netherlands does not sufficiently apply this interest in decisions affecting children.
Another explanation for the drop has to do with the long waiting lists for youth care and youth protection in the Netherlands. In the areas of ‘non-discrimination’, ‘respect for the views of the child’, ‘legislation’, ‘resources’ and ‘data’, the country has made no progress since 2015.
According to the KidsRights Index, the Netherlands is guilty of violating some fundamental children’s rights, including in the area of youth care and protection. This is because the state can’t provide the necessary care or protection for many vulnerable children. These are children who depend on youth care and youth protection, children in poverty or children in asylum seekers’ centres (azc). Several government inspections recently sounded the alarm about the reception of the latter group. Moreover, there is also regional inequality of opportunity, with some children having less access to education or youth care.
Marc Dullaert, founder and president of KidsRights, says of the report: “These dramatic figures for the Netherlands are the result of years of poor child rights policies. Unfortunately, in recent years the government has done nothing with recommendations and concerns from the United Nations. We are falling short across the board when it comes to children's rights.”
For more infomation, please visit: https://www.kidsrights.org/nl/nieuws/kidsrights-index-2023-nederland-daalt-16-plaatsen-op-kidsrights-index-en-schendt-een-aantal-fundamentele-kinderrechten/
Wednesday, 21 June 2023
Most benefits to rise by 1 July
On 1 July 2023, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment will adjust all benefits. This is because of the increase in the statutory minimum wage (from EUR 1934.40 to EUR 1995.00 gross per month) and minimum youth wages. Because of the link to the minimum wage, most benefits increase along with it but child benefits go down. As the reason, the central government cites, rather cryptically, 'the development of consumer prices'.
Some major benefits go up by 3.13 per cent on 1 July. These are WW, WIA/WAO and Sickness Benefits Act (ZW). 'Wajong' will also go up. More information, in Dutch, can be found at: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/publicaties/2023/06/20/uitkeringsbedragen-per-1-juli-2023
Tuesday 20 June 2023
Manifesto for fundamental revision of Participation Act
A broad coalition of trade unions, interest groups and experts in The Netherlands is calling for a more fundamental revision of the current Participation Act in a manifesto.
Dutch Minister Carola Schouten (Poverty Policy and Participation) is currently working on a revision of this 2015 law. But according to the coalition, her plans fall short of solving the current problems. Last week, the national parliament debated the Participation Act.
In manifesto presented on Wednesday 14 June, the signatories argue for a modified Participation Act that guarantees subsistence security for vulnerable groups. Kitty Jong, vice-president of FNV Trade Union: "The current Participation Act is an unprecedentedly harsh law that approaches people with distrust. Much greater legislative changes are needed to offer welfare recipients subsistence security and perspective. The conditions for this are in our manifesto.''
The signatories of the manifesto are the trade unions FNV, CNV and VCP, interest organisations, experience expert Noortje van Lith and scientist Anja Eleveld. According to these parties, welfare should follow the increase the minimum wage and be at least 60 per cent of the average income in the Netherlands. Furthermore, young people should receive adult welfare benefits instead of the current 250 euros per month. The cooperating partners also want people on welfare to be able to earn more than the 15 per cent limit proposed by Minister Schouten. Especially for people with medical disabilities, this should be at least 30 per cent.
Abolition of cost sharing standard
Furthermore, the cost-sharing standard, which currently applies to children aged 27 and over who live in the household, should be abolished. There should also be fewer differences in rights, obligations and services for social assistance recipients in the 340 Dutch municipalities. The law should be based on trust; adjustment of the overly strict obligation to provide information is needed. The coalition also advocates a structural solution for people with a chronic illness or disability on welfare. This means abolishing the current partner and assets test.
In the manifesto, the parties further argue for better support for people with disabilities towards and during regular work. Examples include investments in social development companies and sufficient sheltered workplaces. (Photo: FNV.nl)
For the manifesto (in Dutch), see https://www.fnv.nl/getmedia/d978dc55-a3d8-4daa-a0af-2d280a906db8/Manifest-Participatiewet-pdf.pdf
Thursday, 1 June 2023
Consultation hour FNV trade union Friday June 16 in Amstelveen
Trade union FNV is there not only for workers but also for job seekers and benefit recipients. The union wants to know what these two target groups consider important in the search for work.
That is why the FNV is going on location to talk to job seekers and benefit recipients. What do people find important in the guidance to a new job and how can FNV help in this?
On Friday 16 June, from 13:30 to 16:00, FNV will hold a special walk-in consultancy hour for job seekers and benefit recipients in Amstelveen. Non-members of are also welcome. The address is: community centre ‘De Bolder’, Groenhof 140, 1186 EX Amstelveen.
Thursday, 11 May 2023
Amstelveen municipality develops new housing vision
The municipality of Amstelveen is developing a new housing vision for the period 2023-2030. This is because the current 'housing agenda' is expiring and has been superseded by recent developments in the housing market.
Meanwhile, the first version, the so-called 'eighty percent version', is ready. In the coming weeks, the city council plans to submit this document for advice to residents, the city council and parties involved in housing and housing construction. Examples include housing associations, private landlords, estate agents and experts. On Tuesday 23 May, for instance, there will be an information and discussion evening for Amstelven residents. A day later, Wednesday 24 May, the municipal council will discuss the 'eighty percent vision'.
Ready before summer recess
The first part of the new housing vision contains facts, figures and an analysis on the current housing stock. It also discusses Amstelveen's housing plans in relation to those of the province of North Holland and central government. The second part revolves around appropriate housing construction, urban renewal, sustainability and innovative solutions. Once all parties have had their say, the council aims to adopt the final housing vision before the summer recess.
According to alderman for housing Elzakalai, the demand for housing in Amstelveen is the highest in the Netherlands: demand is 50 per cent higher than supply. Elzakalai: "As a municipality, we aim to build appropriate housing for a liveable community. If we build too many new houses, facilities will come under pressure. That is why we continue to invest in existing residential areas to strengthen liveability. But to break through the housing crisis, we need to look for new, innovative solutions."
Six thousand homes
The Municipal Executive wants to add six thousand homes in Amstelveen over the next seven years. That seems almost unachievable. After all, from 2017 to 2022, 'only' 1450 houses were added, an average of about 240 per year. The low point was 2020 with just 73 new homes built. Last year, Amstelveen's housing stock grew by 462 units. The city council has largely pinned its hopes on building three thousand houses at the Legmeer site but this new-build project is far from certain.
Be that as it may, of those six thousand new-build homes, 20 per cent must consist of social rented housing and 46 per cent of the 'middle segment'. Of these, 36 per cent must be owner-occupied houses, with the remaining 10 per cent being rental houses. One-third of the new construction is intended for the private sector. On its own land, Amstelveen municipality wants at least 30 per cent social rented homes to be built.
New priority regulations
Thanks to the new Housing Act, the council says it is possible to allocate a maximum of fifty per cent of social rented homes to Amstelveen residents or residents of surrounding municipalities. Therefore, the council wants to realise new priority schemes for Amstelveen residents. To stimulate the construction of social and 'middle-priced' rental homes, the municipality will set up a public housing fund.
An information and discussion evening on the new housing vision will be held on Tuesday 23 May at 7pm in the Annakerk, Amsterdamseweg 22. All residents of Amstelveen are welcome. Registration via 'email@example.com' is required. (Photo: NOS.nl).
Thursday, 11 May 2023
Free public transport cards for minima up in record time
In record time, households in the Amsterdam region applied for the free public transport cards for minima. The campaign started on Monday 8 May and a day later (Tuesday 9 May), via the website https://gratis-ov.nl, all 730,000 cards were already gone. The cards were intended for anyone earning up to 130 per cent of the minimum income, but it is suspected that many others also applied for the action. According to initiator Transport Region ('Vervoerregio') Amsterdam, this could not be otherwise due to privacy laws. Some 95,000 minima live in the Amsterdam region. The action cost five million euros.
Per address, households could apply for eight free tickets for city and regional buses, (fast) trams and the metro in the Amsterdam region. Amstelveen is one of 14 participating municipalities. The tickets are valid for an hour and a half. The duration is until 31 December 2023. The Amsterdam Transport Region aims to send all tickets within two weeks.
Lots of interest
Besides the Amsterdam Transport Region, transport companies GVB, EBS and Connexxion are also taking part in the campaign. The reason is the sharp increase in public transport fares. "We have chosen to make the website for applying for the free public transport cards as accessible as possible," says a spokesperson for the Amsterdam Transport Region. "We hope that only the people who needed it applied for the cards." Free ov cards may still be available through food banks, thrift shops and other social organisations.
In 2022, public transport fares rose by an average of 7.24 per cent. "We are happy that we can now hand out these free ov cards," said Melanie van der Horst, chairman of the Amsterdam Transport Region and traffic alderman of Amsterdam. "I realise that unfortunately it is not a structural solution to rising fares. Nevertheless, I hope it will still allow us to contribute to struggling households. In the meantime, we continue to push to abolish VAT on fares for public transport." The Transport Region includes the municipalities of Aalsmeer, Amstelveen, Amsterdam, Diemen, Edam-Volendam, Haarlemmermeer, Landsmeer, Oostzaan, Ouder-Amstel, Purmerend, Uithoorn, Waterland, Wormerland and Zaanstad. (Photo caption: Melanie van der Horst at Amsterdam Central Station. Photo: Tom Feenstra - Municipality of Amsterdam).
Tuesday, 2 May 2023
Amstelveen poverty policy network meeting
The Amstelveen municipality will hold a network meeting on poverty policy at the town hall on Tuesday 9 May. This meeting is intended for network partners of the municipality, such as the Participation Council Social Domain (PSD), the Client Council Minima Amstelveen (CMA) and the 'Voedselbank' (Food Bank). The meeting should provide input for the new policy note on poverty policy, which is due to take effect on 1 January 2024 and runs through 2028. The memorandum should be ready on 27 September, after which the municipal council should approve it on 18 October.
In December 2022, it emerged that the municipal council wants a broader poverty policy that is not limited to the current minimum schemes. In particular, schools, healthcare institutions, sports associations, companies and other social organisations should play an important role in preventing and combating poverty. The current 2019 poverty policy is in urgent need of revision, according to all political parties. A critical report by the Commission of Auditors from October 2022 shows that only 30 to 40 per cent of the target group in Amstelveen uses existing schemes and allowances for minima. Therefore, on 22 November 2022, the Municipal Executive published the 'Policy Plan on Poverty' for 2024 to 2028. Key points are simpler schemes, better, proactive communication from the municipality and more mutual trust between officials and minima.
The programme is as follows:
13.00-13.15: welcome speech Marijn van Ballegooijen, alderman for care and welfare, work and income and diversity.
13.15-13.45: speaker Pieter Hilhorst (politician, political scientist, publicist, former Amsterdam alderman for finance, education and youth care).
13.45-13.50: introduction programme.
13.55-14.40: working form first round: poverty & health.
14.55-15.30: working form second round: poverty & youth.
15.35-16.10: working form third round: network strengthening among network partners.
16.20-16.30: summary alderman Marijn van Ballegooijen.
16.30-17.00: networking drinks. During the meeting, a cartoonist will make cartoons on the topics discussed. See also: https://1gzxdwq.momice.events/.
Monday, 24 April
Column 'Amsterdammer helps Amsterdammer' celebrates ten years
Exactly ten years ago, in April 2013, daily newspaper Het Parool in Amsterdam launched the 'Amsterdammer helps Amsterdammer' column together with the foundation of the same name. In every Saturday edition, someone on a minimum income asks for financial help from his or her fellow city-dwellers.
In ten years, the foundation 'Amsterdammer helps Amsterdammer' was able to honour no fewer than 409 requests, good for a total amount of € 688,505, 34. The top five are as follows: 75 bicycles, 46 beds, 25 refrigerators/stoves/washers, 25 laptops and 20 week(s) away.
In addition, Amsterdammers also asked for a financial contribution towards the search for their biological parents, training a service dog or the cost of a gravestone. (Photo: Eva Plevier - Het Parool).
Friday 21 April 2023
'Humane' social care in Amstelveen
As an Amstelveen nurse, she has her heart in the right place. She works full-time in healthcare. Her heart could not say no when the father of her now-grown children turned up on her doorstep six weeks ago. This after a divorce that had been finalised 25 years ago. They have always maintained a good relationship, as he is, after all, the father of her two sons. For the past eight years, her ex husband had been living in Spain.
And then in the summer of last year, the man, now 62 years old, was struck by fate and suffered a CVA (Cerebro Vascular Accident). Or a stroke. The former husband has since suffered 'non-congenital brain injury' and reduction of strength in left leg and arm. His heart is also no longer doing well.
Because of his brain injury, the man loses everything, as he is no longer able to look after his interests and calls on what is familiar to him. To the mother of his children in Amstelveen.
The game of chess
The nurse registers the gentleman at her address to arrange health insurance immediately. With haste, she arranges all kinds of things, such as medication and a referral for a rehabilitation doctor. She lets him sleep in the room of her son who is still living with her. The woman calls town and country. The nursing home where her ex-husband was allowed to go, cancels at the last minute. The indication is missing. The client support organisation, financially supported by the municipality of Amstelveen, has a waiting list. No care allowance without income.
The welfare benefit
And then it turns out the man also completely misunderstood the conversation with the municipality. He thought he had applied for social assistance benefit but was completely wrong. A son who accompanied his father to the town hall, also thought it turned out right. But it did not come right at all!
Because yesterday, the client manager called to say that the ex partner will not get welfare benefits. Because there is an 'irrefutable legal presumption of running a joint household'. And then the municipality does not have to prove it wrong.
What about the application to 'Onder the pannen'? That lovely project for which the woman had already registered her ex-husband? Waiting for everything to be sorted out? Helping a fellow man temporarily with shelter? The municipality says that ex and ex have a joint household and thus take care of each other.
The man is allowed by the Amstelveen municipality to go to the homeless shelter in Amsterdam. With brain damage because of his stroke? From chair project to drop-in centres for night shelter? Something is going completely wrong here!
Even though the man sits apathetically on the couch and is incapable of anything, according to the council, after 25 years of separation, ex and ex are now taking care of each other and thus financially.
The wife is scared and angry. Because after six weeks of arranging, arranging and arranging again, it is exhausting to take care of her own patients in the district full time (five days a week), also combined with a study.
She is left with nothing but to take her ex-husband to the town hall. She emails the mayor that he is coming there today...(Photo: Frans Sitvast)
Friday, 31 March 2023
CDA Amstelveen asks questions about housing corporation 'Eigen Haard'
Arjen Siegmann, councillor for the CDA (Christian Democrats) in Amstelveen, submitted questions to the college of mayor and aldermen about 'Eigen Haard' on Wednesday 29 March. This because tenants have been complaining for years about overdue maintenance and poor communication with this housing corporation, which has a monopoly position in Amstelveen. The letter can be found below. (Photo: RTVA)
Amstelveen, 29 March 2023
Subject: Eigen Haard rental properties in Amstelveen
To the municipal executive, het college of mayor and aldermen
In the municipality of Amstelveen, the majority of social housing is owned by the 'Eigen Haard' housing association, based in Amsterdam. In the past period, we are talking about almost a year, many tenants of 'Eigen Haard' have approached us with complaints about the way complaints are handled, and not only about the technical handling, but also the way tenants are treated.
We have since received a range of complaints, such as reports regarding the energy label, technical imperfections, poor repairs, no checks on work carried out, unsympathetic treatment, failure to keep appointments, etc. The complaints reported to us have been assessed and determined by us during a visit.
The CDA (Christian Democrats) believes that as a society we should do everything possible to provide every Amstelveen resident with good and affordable housing that also offers living comfort.
Unfortunately, for many tenants at Eigen Haard, there is no living comfort to speak of, given the great dissatisfaction with the landlord's conduct.
The municipality of Amstelveen made 'Performance agreements 2021 - 2024' with Eigen Haard, which set out agreements on the development of the housing stock, house seekers, vulnerable groups, quality, sustainability, etc. In the areas of quality and sustainability, for instance, there are no agreements, but intentions that can be interpreted in many ways.
In view of the above, the CDA has the following questions;
1. Is the college aware of the great dissatisfaction among Eigen Haard tenants about;
✓ The manner of personal approach
✓ Poor complaint handling
✓ Very long waiting times
✓ Poor technical repairs or no repairs at all
✓ The repairs that are done are not subject to any inspection by Eigen
Haard, the check is sometimes done by the contractor himself.
2. Is the college aware of the fact that there are many homes that have a very unhealthy indoor climate due to 'moisture problems'.
3. Is the board aware of the fact that many tenants live in homes that have a very poor label score according to ISSO pub 82.1 while Eigen Haard claims that many of these homes comply and mostly have a good score according to the labelling as it applied until 01-01-2021. These issued labels are leading for Eigen Haard, so also determining the level of rent. What is overlooked is that many tenants are either out in the cold or have huge energy bills.
4. Why the college deems inadmissible a re-reported complaint from a tenant regarding a WKO installation, known to the college since 2012. For your information, as of 23 March this year, the complaint has been dealt with by the Environment and Transport Inspectorate.
5. Finally, we would urge the college to make new binding 'Performance Agreements' with Eigen Haard as soon as possible especially in the areas of;
✓ Sustainability and ✓ Quality of life.
On behalf of CDA-Amstelveen, Arjen Siegmann, CDA-Amstelveen chairman.
Wednesday 29 March 2023
Centrale Raad van Beroep (CRvB): incomplete information no reason for withdrawing assistance
The Central Appeals Council (CRvB) last week reprimanded the municipality of Alphen aan den Rijn (province of South Holland) for withdrawing social assistance benefits. Although the concerned resident of this South Holland municipality violated the so-called duty to cooperate by not fully answering municipal questions, this was not sufficient reason to retroactively withdraw his social assistance benefit, according to the council. This ruling is obviously of great interest to other Dutch municipalities, including Amstelveen. You can read the full article on the Zorg & Sociaalweb website, see https://sociaalweb.nl/samenvatting/crvb-onvolledige-informatie-geen-reden-voor-intrekken-bijstand/
Tuesday, 14 March 2023
Protestant churches' 'Church in Action' against poverty
Protestant churches in the Netherlands yesterday launched 'Church in Action' against poverty in the Netherlands. People find it - rightly so - indigestible that over a million Dutch people live in poverty, according to a recent report by the Central Planning Bureau.
The Protestant Church calls on people, members and non-members, to donate food to the Foodbank Netherlands ('Voedselbank Nederland'). Together with this non-profit organisation, people can get a special collection box at churches and a list of food items selected by the Foodbank. In addition, the Protestant Church is calling on local residents, both believers and non-believers, to set up drop-in points. Furthermore, there will be a special webimar on Wednesday 29 March from 8-9 pm for anyone who wants to know more about 'Church in Action'.
Today, Tuesday 14 March, many national and regional daily newspapers are covering this action. Examples are 'Friesch Dagblad' and 'Utrechts Nieuwsblad'. For more information, please find: https://kerkinactie.protestantsekerk.nl/over-kerk-in-actie/onze-themas/samen-tegen-armoede/.
Monday 6 March 2023
Honest and yet a random sample!
Benefit recipients in Amstelveen who do their utmost to find paid work, have no illegal side income and have their finances in order may still face a random check by the municipality. All bank accounts must then be put on the table, even if there is no reason to suspect fraud. Amstelveen appears to have been checking ten per cent of welfare recipients for years. Just because the damned Participation Act allows it.
A Syrian status holder has been living in the Netherlands for several years and is trying with all his might to get a paid job. That is easier said than done! In the meantime, he is entitled to welfare benefits. The new Amstelvener applies for a job, but still cannot find a suitable one. So in the meantime, he neatly fills in the details requested by the local authorities.
Also of the children
Yet in early March 2023, he is instructed by the Amstelveen municipality to submit all financial data between 1 July and 30 September 2022. Not only of himself but also of the other family members, including the finances of the children up to the age of 18. The current accounts, all savings accounts and whatnot, the municipality cannot get enough! Syrian delivers everything neatly but still wonders why the municipality wants to know everything about him, including his finances.
High time to call in Wil Roode of the Platform Amstelveen Minima! She is a cadre member of the FNV Union, Department for Benefit Entitlements Greater Amsterdam. Together with her client, she calls the municipality's customer manager, asking why the Syrian is singled out and what happens to his data. The answer is disconcerting: there is no reason to suspect the man, he has ‘accidentally’ been singled out. This is because, according to the Participation Act, the municipality is allowed to check clients. "This is a random sample. Every year, the municipality checks 10 per cent and calls it a thematic check. There is no reason to suspect sir of fraud."
But then why is he being singled out? No idea! The Syrian prefers the municipality not to store his details in the municipal database, so why is this happening? Again: no idea.
The Amstelveen municipality has put on its penitential cloth and promised improvement when it comes to trust. At least according to the interview with the councillor on Wednesday 1 March in the door-to-door magazine ‘Amstelveens Nieuwsblad’. The first step seems to be yet to be taken....
Thursday, 23 February
Soap white goods campaign continues
What started in October 2022 as a promising initiative to help Amstelveen's minima buy a new, energy-efficient washing machine or dishwasher has now turned into a nightmare: alderman Floor Gordon's white goods action. Concerned Amstelveners have now completely lost faith in this action.
On 27 October, alderman Floor Gordon (sustainability) proudly announced the new white goods campaign on the municipal website. Residents of Amstelveen with a minimum income would receive a voucher (gift certificate) of 500 euros to buy a new washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, fridge-freezer or tumble dryer. Good for the environment and especially good for the wallet of this much-hyped target group. "On average, replacing a 10-year-old white goods appliance with a new one can save around 160 euros a year in energy cost reduction," Gordon said in the press release. All residents who received the energy allowance of 1,300 euros in 2022 would receive a letter.
So far so good. Only it remained quiet for months, and the target group sat day after day anxiously waiting for the letter from the municipality with which they could apply for the voucher. However, interesting news did come out of the town hall at the end of January, during a meeting of the Participation Council Social Domain (PSD). Given the great interest, the municipal council had decided to double the number of vouchers from five hundred to a thousand.
On Tuesday 14 February, the selected Amstelveners finally received the coveted letter. With a unique code, they could activate their gift voucher, for example to buy a new washing machine or dishwasher at electronics shop BCC in Amsterdam-Buitenveldert. The letter was sent to as many as four thousand Amstelveen residents. So a 25 per cent chance, slightly higher than a round of Russian roulette (16.6 per cent). Was one just on holiday or not so digitally proficient; too bad! Within two days, all vouchers were exhausted and those left behind had to grit their teeth and take their seats on the waiting list.
This naturally led to much criticism and furious reactions from people who have to turn over every dime and could very well use the vouchers. One smart person inquired with the Dutch gambling authority whether the Amstelveen municipality might have violated the Games of Chance Act, but this turned out not to be the case.
Only the aldeman likes it
The only one who saw it all positively was the alderman himself. She said the fact that the gift vouchers ran out in record time was a sign of the high level of commitment. Moreover, according to Gordon, the Amstelveners on the reserve bench will have another chance in two months' time. This is because there are always people who do not use their voucher during this period.
The latter seems to be the case for only a few, given the speed with which the gift vouchers were applied for. Besides, it is completely unclear who will be the first to use them. The only real hope for the unfortunate ones is that the Amstelveen municipality will succumb to the heavy criticism and still decide to greatly expand the white goods campaign.
"We know nothing!"
And then the purchase itself. Amstelveen has not had a BCC outlet in the Stadshart for years. As a result, people have to divert to Gelderlandplein in Buitenveldert. For people without their own transport, this is inconvenient. Therefore, the municipality has now decided that people can also spend their gift vouchers at electronics shop Dis on Lindenlaan. Only they don't know about it because of poor communication: the branch manager and his staff were completely surprised by the many requests. Perhaps not entirely surprising: according to good Dutch practice, the municipality engaged two parties for the implementation: the Regional Energy Counter and Groupcard (issuing gift vouchers).
The soap opera will undoubtedly be continued!
Sunday, 19 February 2023
It's freezing cold in Amstelveen
When all odds are equal
Super, yippee, hooray, what luck, finally! Finally that energy-consuming, -guzzling and price-driving refrigerator out the door. Fifteen years old. After years of faithful service, the fridge has become a stand in the way. It’s not only a stinking cupboard but also gnawed on by rust, which has effectively made eating for your blood of children an assault on those darlings' lives. It eats up energy. It is colder in the house than in the fridge itself!
But then again, there is little to nothing to save from that welfare allowance or the dastardly minimum wage. Surely applying for special assistance from the municipality would help? Too bad, misfortune, bad luck! You should have saved, saved, saved! Yes, but of what?
And then, hallelujah, super, fantastico!!! It won't really be true, will it? Honestly? Yes! Really, the municipality has a fund with money for us. Finally! The thing can go out the door and at electronics retailer BCC I get to run an icebox with the gift certificate, for which I get a letter on the door mat from the municipality. I get to join the game of chance!
Hooray 🥳... or wait a minute: it turns out I am participating in a municipal lottery! I piss next to the pot. The jackpot has passed me by. Never knew you could join a game for the poor as a minima. Because that’s what it is: a game devised by the representatives of the people. For that energy fixer I also got to go through to jail instead of through to start. Start for energy savers, that is.
Who comes up with such a thing? A lottery for the poor. Fobbed off with something. Because after the announcement by the alderman with her fresh and fruity press release - I thought finally showing that cold closet the door - the delay in the party for the poor people came. They were so busy running the city that the poor people had to wait a while before they could compete for a new device.
To the parties that have such a good thing going for us, 'the paupers', here is some warm advice. You have a long way to go if you want us to trust the government again.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Little progress in Amstelveen poverty policy
On 25 May 2021, local broadcaster RTVA paid extensive attention to poverty in Amstelveen. The conclusion was that our ‘rich’ municipality also struggles with structural poverty that hits some 5,500 residents (six per cent of the population) hard. We are now almost two years on and the editors of www.amstelveense-minima.nl wonder whether the situation has improved. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding 'no!'
RTVA's programme '1 Amstelveen' on current political issues unfortunately no longer exists, but fortunately we still have the broadcasts on YouTube! On 25 May 2021, presenter Roel Smit (pictured) had three guests at the table to talk about local poverty. These were Barrie Rol, single foster mother on welfare benefits, Wil Roode (citizen councillor, board member of the Voedselbank Amstelveen and FNV executive) and VVD (Liberal Party) councillor Victor Frequin, the new alderman of neighbouring municipality Ouder-Amstel.
According to Barrie Rol, who had to overcome some trepidation to tell her story on camera, she has faced sheer distrust from the municipality since coming to Amstelveen in 2013. Her neatly written script for debt relief got lost in the bureaucratic merry-go-round, social investigators had her shadowed and unauthorisedly requested her details from banks and the Tax Office because they believed Rol was fraudulent, which was not the case. Meanwhile, she had to try to keep her head above water with her three foster children.
Only flex contracts
Her story was supported by Wil Roode, also the initiator of this website. Through her large network as a citizens' councillor, the Food Bank and the FNV, she knows better than anyone that poverty is a big problem in Amstelveen too. Roode: “The welfare payments are far too low to live decently on, even with all the allowances. Moreover, the municipality perpetuates poverty by constantly sending people from one poorly paid flexitime contract to the next. Without giving these people the prospect of well-paid work that matches their abilities and experience.”
It also says the municipality perpetuates poverty by housing low-income people together, causing neighbourhoods to deteriorate. This problem occurs in districts like ‘Groenelaan’, ‘Keizer Karelpark’, ‘Bankras’ and ‘Kostverloren’, among others. Issues against which Frequin could do little. “I am convinced that everyone is of good will, including the social domain officials,” he said. His two female interlocutors did have some question marks about that....
By the way, it was notable that the fourth seat remained empty. Alderman Marijn van Ballegooijen (PvdA, Labour Party) of Work and Income did not feel like coming because “Mrs. Roode tells too many untruths and there would just be a yes-no discussion anyway that would be of no use to the viewers.”
New poverty policy
We are now 21 months on and www.amstelveense-minima.nl thinks it is high time to take stock. Although the corona crisis is history, inflation and the cost of living have since skyrocketed. However, the Amstelveen municipality has now started shaping a new poverty policy for the period 2024-2028, which, after a seemingly endless series of advisory and consultation rounds, should lead to a brand new policy plan on 27 September. A month later (18 October), the municipal council must give this plan its blessing.
Has anything improved for minima in Amstelveen since the May 2021 broadcast? The answer to that question cannot but be 'no'. Six per cent of Amstelveen’s population still lives at or below the poverty line. Furthermore, it shows that only 30 to 40 per cent of this target group uses existing schemes and allowances. This is partly due to the municipality’s inadequate communication that takes little to no account of people who are not so digitally literate.
Meanwhile, the Werkplein AA, which is supposed to help people on welfare get paid work, is also under fire. People who are compulsorily sent to an employer, doing full time work there but not receiving a euro salary under the guise of 'gaining work experience'. And Werkplein customer managers who also run a commercial company called Werkspirit at the town hall. People on benefits are completely unaware that at Werkplein AA they are in fact talking to this commercial company.
Of the two investigations about the Werkplein, one is still secret. This one is about the culture of fear within this organisation. Unfortunately, the Amstelveen municipal council, which is actually supposed to stand up for its most vulnerable residents, does not ask critical questions about this state of affairs. The councillors apparently do not want to know what is going on.
Criticism from the council
On 14 December 2022, many parties in the city council criticised the college's plans for new poverty policy: no long-term vision, no cooperation with schools, care institutions, no attention to women - who form the vast majority of single-parent families - and inefficiency in the current schemes. And while councillor Van Ballegooijen can proudly announce that an extra 50,000 euros will be made available for poverty policy this year, that is of course just a drop in the ocean.
OK, there has been 2.5 million euros for the 'Spending Plan 2023 Emergency Fund Rising Costs’ since January 2023. Intended to help minimum-income residents, entrepreneurs and social institutions that have run into acute problems due to soaring prices (especially energy). In the short term, it amounts to over a million euros. The chronically ill and disabled, for instance, will receive a one-off payment of 200 euros. Families with school-age children receive a one-off €75 per primary school pupil and €150 for secondary school pupils. A nice initiative but, again, effectively no more than a glorified tip.
White goods action
And the white goods action has still not started either. Low-income residents who buy a new, energy-efficient washing machine, dryer, fridge or freezer can get a €500 subsidy from the municipality. However, the council did recently decide to double the five hundred vouchers. But although councillor Floor Gordon proudly presented the white goods campaign on the municipal website as early as 27 October, the target group will only receive the application form and accompanying information in the mail this week!
You can watch the broadcast of RTVA's '1Amstelveen' of 25 May 2021 (in Dutch) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nTPcH6vt5k&t=45. Duration approximately 55 minutes. Photo: RTV Amstelveen.
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Registration for holiday camp Amstelveen
This year there will again be 'Our Holiday Camp' for children (5-14 years old) from Amstelveen and the surrounding area who cannot go on holiday themselves. During the first two weeks of the summer holidays, they can once again take part in a wide range of activities, such as sports and games and excursions. This year from Monday 24 July to Friday 4 August. 'Our Holiday Camp Amstelveen' has been around since 1947.
Registration is possible on Wednesday 8 February (19-21 hrs) at Ontmoetingscentrum De Meent, Orion 3, Amstelveen. There is room for up to three hundred children who will be accompanied by some 65 volunteers. The cost per child is €14.50 (for parents with an Amstelveen pass) or €62. For more information, please call +31 6 15 49 02 50 (Monday to Thursday from 19-21 hours) or visit the websites https://onsvakantiekamp.nl/ and https://www.facebook.com/OnsVakantiekamp.
Tuesday 31 March
Collection campaign by supermarket Albert Heijn and Food Bank
From Monday 30 January to Sunday 5 February, Albert Heijn supermarket and Food Bank Netherlands (‘Voedselbank Nederland’) will again hold the national ‘On an empty stomach you can’t learn’ campaign. In Amstelveen, too, supermarket customers can donate food to local food banks. The aim is to give schoolchildren from families on a minimum income a good breakfast and also healthy meals.
Four AH stores in Amstelveen are taking part in this collection campaign. These are Bourgondische Laan (District Randwijck), Groenhof (Groenelaan), Brink (Middenhoven) and Maalderij (Bovenkerk). Customers can donate pre-selected food items, which are placed together in the shops. Besides breakfast products, these include pastas and vegetables. “There is a great need for these products and every little bit helps,” claims the Food Bank.
On Saturday 4 February, volunteers from Food Bank Amstelveen will be at the AH branches Groenhof and Bourgondische Laan to receive the products. At the Maalderij branch in Bovenkerk, the Food Bank will get help from members of Lions Mingle who will collect the products.
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Doubling vouchers white goods campaign
The municipality of Amstelveen is doubling the number of vouchers from the white goods action from five hundred to one thousand. A policy official announced this Tuesday 24 January during a meeting of the Participation Council Social Domain (PSD).
With a voucher of €500, Amstelven residents on a minimum income can buy an energy-efficient refrigerator, freezer, fridge-freezer, washing machine or tumble dryer. Research shows that replacing a ten-year-old white goods appliance saves around €160 a year on energy bills.
On 27 October 2022, Floor Gordon (D66, Social Liberal Party), alderman for sustainability, announced the white goods campaign. Eligible are Amstelven residents who earn up to 130 per cent of social assistance standard. Initially, the alderman made five hundred vouchers worth €500 available. That decision was criticised by several councillors and civil society organisations, as this number would be far too low to serve everyone. The slow implementation was also a thorn in the side of many. For instance, all households, eligible for the €1,300 energy allowance, were supposed to receive information about the white goods campaign. This has not happened to date.
The Social Domain Participation Council has been in existence since November 2016. This council advises the Municipal Executive on the social policy of the municipality of Amstelveen. This includes the Youth Act, Participation Act and the Social Support Act (Wmo). The council meets monthly, always on Tuesday afternoon at 13:30. The next meeting is on 28 February.
Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Three council talks on social domain
On the initiative of Saloua Chaara (D66, Social Liberals) and Victor Frequin (VVD, Liberals), the city council of Amstelveen will soon hold talks with residents of Amstelveen and civil society organisations. During these council talks, the social domain (social support, care for the elderly, youth assistance, work and income) will be the focus. The council wants to know what residents' experiences are with municipal services and how these can be improved. This will take place on three Wednesdays (15 February, 22 March and 12 April 2023), each time at 19:30 at the Amstelveen town hall.
The first meeting (15 February) will focus on social support, health and (elderly) care. The second session will focus on youth support. The third and final session (12 April) deals with work and income (Participation Act and debt assistance). You can register for one or more council sessions at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also: https://www.amstelveen.nl/home/news/gesprekken-over-sociale-dienstverlening-gemeente-komt-u-ook. (Photo: Wikipedia).
Tuesday, 17 January 2023
Doubts over new point system for social rental housing
NH Nieuws pays attention to the new point system for the distribution of social housing in fourteen North Holland municipalities, including Amstelveen. This system took effect on Monday, 16 January 2023.
From now on, it is no longer only about the number of years that house seekers have been registered (waiting points), but also about personal situation (situation points) and actively looking for a house (search points).
Someone who has been looking for social housing for seven years is Stefan van Wijnen (32) from Amstelveen. He has serious doubts about the new points system because it does not address the endless waiting lists. Stefan lives in the former Oldenhof elderly centre in Amstelveen, which is on the verge of demolition. Three years ago, NH News already covered his housing situation.
In the new points system, waiting time (length of registration) is no longer the only criterion. Situation and search points will also play a role. Situation points apply to urgent cases, such as resident families with children, divorced parents or young people with mental or physical problems.
Stefan does not fall into this category and can only 'earn' search points. For example, by applying for a house at least four times a month. Incidentally, it is also possible to get deduction points by, for example, refusing a house or not appearing at a viewing.
Stefan is not positive about the search points: "Everyone searches a lot. So then nothing changes." He would rather see a central registration process, which would also give house seekers a chance of finding a rental property outside their municipality. He has one urgent message to politicians: "Start looking at what people actually earn and build for the average Dutchman. Everyone deserves a roof over their heads!"
Information on the new points system and the distribution of social rented housing is at https://www.socialehuurwoningzoeken.nl.
Saturday, 14 January 2023
Another 'Culture Bus' for Amstelveen primary schools
Amstelveen primary schools can again use bus transport for cultural trips in 2023. This Culture Bus will take classes of schoolchildren to cultural institutions in Amstelveen.
With the Culture Bus, pupils visit performances, take part in guided tours and follow workshops. Participating institutions are the Amstelveen Puppet Theatre, Ateliers 2005, the Amsterdam Forest Theater ('Het Bostheater'), Cinema Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum for Modern Art, Library Amstelland, Museum JAN, Platform C, SAKB 'KunstLokaal' and Theatre Amstelveen. Transport to cultural institutions is often an obstacle for many schools due to organisation and high costs. This emerged from a feasibility study commissioned on the Culture Bus in 2021 following questions from the city council.
Amstelveen municipality pays for the Culture Bus from the National Education Programme. In addition, schools pay an own contribution. "We think it is important that primary school children come into contact with art and culture in Amstelveen at least once," says alderman Herbert Raat. "The Culture Bus should remove the financial barrier for schools to organise this kind of outing. The Culture Bus has been running since April 2022 and was deployed several times last year. For instance, over 140 pre-school children were taken to the Amstelveen Puppet Theatre. It is organised by Cultuureducatie Amstelland, part of Platform C, a partnership of cultural organisations and schools in the Amstelland region. (Photo: Cultuureducatie Amstelland).
The Amstelveen city council presented the 'Spending Plan 2023 Emergency Fund Rising Costs' in a letter to the city council this week. In total, the municipal executive committee is making €2.5 million available to help residents on minimum income, entrepreneurs and social institutions that have run into acute problems due to sharply rising prices (especially energy). In the short term, this amounts to over one million euros.
The emergency fund is a wish of city council that called for it during the 2023 budget discussion in November. The emergency fund includes support measures for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and middle-income earners (130 to 150 per cent of the social minimum).
For people on minimum income and other residents, there will be some specific measures. For instance, all chronically ill and disabled people will receive a one-off payment of 200 euros. The municipality has allocated €129,500 for this purpose. Families with school-age children will receive €75 per primary school pupil and €150 for secondary school pupils. The budget for this is €114,500. For Amstelveners in debt assistance, the freely spendable monthly amount for living expenses goes up (budget €20,000).
Furthermore, the council has reserved €275,000 for the new white goods action. Residents who purchase new, energy-efficient household appliances can get a €500 subsidy. However, it is expected that 500 vouchers will not be enough to satisfy all applications, so the municipality is considering increasing the budget.
Furthermore, households can hire an energy advisor from the FIX team free of charge to make their homes more energy efficient. 65,000 euros is available for this purpose. Furthermore, the council has set aside 80,000 euros for distressing cases. The municipal council further wants to spend 100,000 on warm community centres. The contribution to the Food Bank is likely to go up by 10,000 euros, as in 2022.
The Municipal Executive indicates that the Emergency Fund is valid for the whole of 2023. At the end of the year, the municipal council will review whether an extension is needed. This depends in particular on the development of energy prices and the cost of living, as well as government support measures.
"Everyone knows Mohamad!", says AAN!Amstelveen. "From the clothing bank, the financial café in Keizer Karelpark, the residents' committee, the Lief en Leedstraat in Ambrosiuslaan, the MOC on Lindenlaan, the Nieuwsplein, the Clients Minimaraad and so on. Mohamad has been volunteering for years to help people, bring them together and activate them."
In 2019, the Amstelveen municipality asked MEE Amstel en Zaan and Vluchtelingenwerk West- en Midden Nederland to start a pilot project with key people. By introducing the Integration Act, municipalities are responsible for the integration of status holders, among others, from 1 January 2022.
Meanwhile, key persons are no longer volunteers but employed by the municipality. National research shows that they have a positive effect on status holders. Amstelveen has eight key people (four men and four women) from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Iraq. They are trained by MEE and expertise centre Pharos.
For more information see: https://aanamstelveen.nl/sleutelpersoon-mohamad/
Enlisting help is then the only solution, but can be a barrier for many, because suddenly you are being asked for substantiating information. But what if you don't have all that at your fingertips one, two, three times? Panic strikes!
But what if you don't have a laptop or printer/scanner? In that case, seek help from someone who can help you with this on a monthly basis. Because all the data is now up-to-date monthly, panic strikes much less. The data is now also readily available to a counsellor/lawyer, so clarity can be given quickly.
Youth Education Fund sees increase in poverty at Dutch primary schools
Meanwhile, the Youth Education Fund keeps getting requests for protection from the cold. As an example, Spekman mentions a school in Rotterdam that wanted to buy fleece blankets because parents do not have money for heating. The number of requests for winter coats also tripled since September 2022. According to Spekman, many families have been in "survival mode" since last year. “It shows that priorities have now shifted from helping them grow to helping them exist. That is unacceptable in a rich country like the Netherlands.” (Source: ANP Press Agency. Photo: De Windroos primary school).
Little attention to minima and poverty during Amstelveen's New Year's speech
During the New Year's reception on Monday 2 January, Amstelveen's mayor Tjapko Poppens paid little attention to poverty and the deteriorating position of minima in our municipality. The topics were wide-ranging, but only halfway through his speech did Mr. Poppens touch on the growing problems that residents on a narrow budget are facing. This despite recent research reports by, among others, the Commission of Auditors and an urgent appeal by the city council and various civil society organisations to finally do something about poverty policy.
"A growing number of Amstelveen residents are struggling to make ends meet," said Poppens. "People who used to get by just fine now have less money for their daily shopping or turn off their heating because they can no longer pay the energy bill. This is unprecedented for Amstelveen. The national energy price cap is not enough for everyone. In November, the municipal council established an emergency fund to help, in addition to the national schemes, residents, institutions and entrepreneurs who have run into acute problems due to high energy prices." The mayor further noted that Amstelveen is now hosting some seven hundred Ukrainians and wants to crack down harder on vacant and illegally rented housing.
Mayor Poppens' full speech (in Dutch) can be read at https://www.amstelveenweb.com/nieuws-Nieuwjaarsreceptie-2023-van-de-gemeente-Amstelve&newsid=404544276
and viewed or listened to at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4iowAcs4eA
or https://www.amstelveenweb.com/nieuws-Nieuwjaarsreceptie-2023-van-de-gemeente-Amstelve&newsid=404544276 (Photo: Mayor Poppens during his New Year's speech. Source: www.amstelveenweb.com ).
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Political party Amstelveen wants to ease credit registration
Following the example of the four major cities in The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) political party 'GroenLinks' (Green Left) in Amstelveen also wants a faster abolition of credit registration for residents who have successfully completed their debt restructuring. Councillor Stieneke Kruijer submitted questions on this to the municipal executive.
In The Netherlands, Bureau Credit Registration (BKR) not only registers credits but also all Dutch people with debts. This registration is currently active for five years after a successful debt counselling - or rehabilitation.
Aldermen of the four big cities sent a letter to BKR on 21 December that they will reduce this period to six months on 1 January 2023. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht think a five-year registration is unnecessarily obstructive for people who want to get their lives back on track after a successful debt restructuring. GreenLeft Amstelveen agrees and asks, through Stieneke Kruijer, whether the municipality of Amstelveen is willing to adopt the same period.
BKR wants the government to quickly reach agreements on debt registration. This in response to the letter from councillors from the four big cities. BKR found that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and Dutch municipalities have different views. Municipalities argue for a six-month period, but the ministry, in response to parliamentary questions, has indicated that it considers five years appropriate for the time being. Incidentally, municipalities can now deregister citizens earlier in the Central Credit Information System (CKI) (Photo: Stieneke Kruijer, GreenLeft Amstelveen).
27 December 2022
Landlords and government work together against evictions
Current inflation and high energy costs increase the risk of tenants falling into arrears. To prevent evictions, landlords, municipalities and the Dutch government have now made joint agreements.
The ‘Woonbond’, which represents 1.6 million tenants in The Netherlands, endorses the importance of preventing evictions. At the same time, the pressure group says it remains important to improve the affordability of rental housing. Too many tenants are financially strapped, according to the Woonbond. That is why a multi-year rent policy is badly needed.
If a tenant falls behind on payments, the municipality receives a signal from the landlord. This allows the municipality to offer (debt) assistance quickly. Tenants with impending payment problems can also go to the municipality themselves. There is also the website www.geldfit.nl and the phone number 0800-8115 (free and anonymous). umbrella organisations of landlords, municipalities and the state already made agreements during the corona crisis to identify payment arrears as early as possible. (Photo: www.prinsenbeeknieuws.nl)
Column by Wil Roode, founder of www.amstelveense-minima.nl
To be together is to laugh together cry together ....... surely everyone wants that?
It does become difficult to go to the Christmas party when your expenses have risen to the point where there is no money left to catch the bus either. The last time she bought anything new was also years ago.
She was embarrassed to go to the Food Bank. Still, she took the step by necessity. Brave!
The shock struck her because her social rent, including service charges, has risen to more than €1000 a month. This is because she has block heating and lives in the Groenelaan district of Amstelveen. Housing association Eigen Haard increased the service charge for water and electricity by €250 a month. In addition, she also pays €190 a month to Vattenfall.
As a single woman with a serious chronic illness, she has to live on less than €1000 a month. Her social assistance benefit is not nearly enough to make ends meet. At the end of the month, she is a few hundred euros short by default.
She really exists and she of all people came to bring me a red poinsettia yesterday. We were together for a moment.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Friday, December 23, 2022
Amstelveen investigates new locations for asylum seekers
The new Dutch Spreading Act (‘Spreidingswet’) is likely to go into effect in February 2023. With this, the central government wants to spread asylum seekers evenly across all 355 Dutch municipalities, easing pressure on asylum centres, particularly Ter Apel (province roningen).
According to an initial calculation, Amstelveen has to accommodate around 350 people. Therefore, on 6 December, the municipality launched an inventory of new reception options. The preference is for two relatively small reception locations. Once these preferred locations are known, the municipality intends to involve local residents through a walk-in evening and participation in customer board groups. The new reception locations are not expected to be ready until November 2023.
The government further wants to accelerate the outflow of status holders from asylum seekers’ centres. Amstelveen says it will meet its target by finding housing for the requested 104 status holders in 2022. In the first half of 2023, Amstelveen must house 111 people with permanent residence status. This includes 34 extra status holders from the second half of 2022.
Photo caption: Temporary shelter for Ukrainians on Prof. E.M. Meijerslaan. Source: www.amstelveenweb.com.
Around 670 refugees from Ukraine currently reside in Amstelveen. Some 350 involve municipal accommodation in two hotels on Prof. J.H. Bavincklaan in the Kronenburg district. Seventy Ukrainians are staying in a temporary emergency accommodation on the neighbouring Prof. E.M. Meijerslaan. Around 250 more refugees from the war-stricken country are staying with host families. The municipality has therefore extended the agreements with the Adagio Aparthotel and the Ibis Budget Hotel until 1 January 2024. This also applies to GP Care, Participe Amstelland and Refugee Council Netherlands.
This week, 42 Ukrainians, mainly families, are moving from the Ibis hotel to mini-apartments in Diemen on their own initiative. The vacant hotel rooms are for Ukrainian refugees staying with Amstelveen host families. Since mid-March 2022, the Werkplein has conducted about 235 intake interviews and mediated jobs for about 145 people. Currently, 247 Ukrainian families receive living allowance from the municipality.
Profiling citizens not stopped after court ban in 2020
The Dutch government continues to unlawfully profile residents. This is despite a court ban in February 2020 against the so-called data profiling law SyRI (System Risk Indication). Therefore, several organisations are preparing a new court case.
Three years ago, several civil society organisations went to court to denounce SyRI. SyRI is designed to tackle fraud with benefits, allowances and tax returns. Besides the Civil Rights Protection Platform, the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (NJCM), Privacy First and KDVP Foundation (‘De Koepel’) also went to court.
That court case was won. The judge in The Hague ruled on 5 February 2020 that citizens’ private lives were not sufficiently respected. According to the judge, it was not clear and transparent how the government handles the analysis and softening of linked files. This violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. SyRI is an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The system has already been applied in Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Haarlem and Capelle aan den IJssel, incidentally with the necessary technical and practical problems.
Recent research by investigative journalists from ‘Argos’ and Lighthouse Reports shows that the government is still profiling unsuspicious citizens on a large scale. For ‘Civil Rights Protection Platform’, Federation of Dutch Trade Union FNV, Privacy First and KDVP Foundation, reason for a new go to court. Tijmen Wisman, chairman of Civil Rights Protection Platform: “Our objection to SyRI was that unsuspicious citizens were being screened en masse and non-transparently by linking personal data. The documents from Argos and Lighthouse Reports show that municipalities and other government bodies continued this method of working even after the court ruling in 2020.”
The government operates risk lists, the result of active cooperation between the tax authorities, the Social Insurance Bank, municipalities and benifit agency UWV, among others. This is done by linking its own, internal lists of risk signals. Maureen van der Pligt, from Dutch Federation of Trade Union FNV: “The number of ticks can be a reason to subject residents to additional checks, such as home visits. While it is totally unclear to citizens why and how they have been selected.” For example, for the Social Insurance Bank, a partner abroad is at increased risk. For some Social Services, these are pregnant women on welfare. Non-use of supplementary financial assistance by people on welfare can also be a risk indicator. The suspicion then is that someone has illegal income. Also, the infamous risk model of the Tax Administration’s Benefits Department prompted some ten municipalities to check people earlier.
It turns out that government agencies also share their investigations with many other remote parties. Ranging from police officers to neighbourhood and youth care teams, housing associations and crime agencies.
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
“Participation Act is messy”
The Participation Act (‘Participatiewet’) retains numerous pain points and imperfections, even after the changes Carola Schouten, Minister for Poverty, Participation and Pensions, wants to implement. This is argued by Maureen van der Pligt, union executive at Dutch Trade Union Federation FNV, on the website of Dutch magazine 'Binnenlands Bestuur', dealing with domestic administration.
According to Van der Pligt, welfare recipients do not yet notice anything of the promised ‘human measure’ by the central government and municipalities: “People are still terrified of being cut because they have ticked the wrong box.” As long as this ‘human measure’ is not an obligation for municipalities, little will come of it, according to her. The union executive therefore has little faith in minister Carola Schouten’s amendment plans for the current Participation Act.
One example is the so-called search period. Young people up to the age of 27 must first look for work or training for four weeks before they can receive benefits. Minister Schouten wants municipalities to be able to deviate from this. But the union executive would rather see this measure abolished altogether. This is because she doubts that municipalities will make use of it. "As long as it is not clearly stated in the Participation Act, it will not happen."
The so-called obligation to provide information is also a matter of concern: welfare recipients must provide all information that could affect their benefits. "It is completely unclear what all this includes," he says. She says the quid pro quo sometimes demanded by municipalities also leads to a lot of welfare misery. “This often means working without pay and pointless trajectories.”
According to her, the cost-sharing norm should also be abolished. This norm sometimes leads to people on welfare being unable to keep their adult children at home. From 2023, the cost-sharing norm will no longer apply to young people under 27. Van der Pligt thinks the rule should be scrapped altogether. Because working takes precedence over studying, people on welfare find it difficult to get an education. Van der Pligt: “Rather give people a vocational accompanying learning pathway (BBL) in sectors where they are badly needed.”
The full article (in Dutch) can be found at: https://www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl/sociaal/maureen-van-der-pligt-over-de-menselijke-maat-de-bijstand
December 19, 2022
More Dutch to food bank
The number of food bank clients increased by 25 per cent in October and November compared to 2021. A record 120,000 Dutch people received food assistance at the end of November. That is 27,800 more people than in October and November last year. This reports Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsbald of Friday, 16 December.
According to non-profit organization Foodbanks Netherlands, the large increase is due to high inflation, which has left Dutch people unable to pay their food and bills. Food bank intake interviews also reveal that many Dutch people have received much more expensive energy contracts from 1 October.
In September, food banks increased their 'standard amounts'. allowing more people to apply for a weekly food package. However, due to stricter rules on food waste, less food has been arriving since 1.5 years.
Until October, the number of clients was more or less 'normal', at 96,000 nationwide. The rapid rise to 120,000 clients, combined with the declining supply of food, places huge demands on food banks. The Netherlands has 172 food banks, employing more than 13,000 volunteers.
December 14, 2022
Leaflets for people on minimum income are back again
Before the corona outbreak in 2020, the Amstelveen municipality had an extensive amount of brochures and leaflets for its residents, including minima, at the town hall. These leaflets were in the large cupboard in the central reception area, around the corner from the reception desk.
Due to corona, access to the town hall was still limited and all the leaflets disappeared. Unfortunately, these important sources of information did not return when the town hall reopened fully. A great loss for minima in particular, the Court of Auditors committee concluded in October. Communication and information provision from the municipality to this target group needs to be much better and more proactive. Leaflets and brochures can play an important role in this.
Our always alert reporter saw today that the leaflets for minima are back in the central reception area of the town hall! Unfortunately, this does not apply to other target groups, such as the elderly. Leaflets are also back at the ''Werkplein AA", which mediates between employers and jobseekers. Unfortunately, these do not include leaflets for people on minimum income.
December 14, 2022
Municipal council Amstelveen wants broader poverty policy
The Amstelveen municipal council wants a broader poverty policy that is not limited to the current benefits and allowances for minima. This policy must also respond to the important role that schools, care institutions, sports clubs, businesses and other social organisations in particular can play in preventing and combating poverty.
(The City Council debate on poverty policy. Photo: Bart Stam)
This emerged on Wednesday, 14 December, during the council debate on the ‘Starting Points Poverty Policy Plan’. Alderman Marijn van Ballegooijen (Care and Welfare, Work and Income and Diversity) promised councillors that he will seriously assess all suggestions for the new poverty policy plan. This document must be ready by 27 September 2023, after which the municipal council will take a final decision on 18 October 2023. Before that happens, there will be several networking meetings, a customer satisfaction survey and a report on income effects.
The current 2019 poverty policy is in urgent need of review, all parties agree. Not only because of sharply increased costs and inflation but also because of a critical report by the Court of Auditors commission from October. This shows that only 30 to 40 per cent of the target group in Amstelveen uses the existing benefits and allowances for residents on minimum income.
For this reason, the municipal executive of mayor and aldermen published the ‘Starting Points Poverty Policy Plan’ on 22 November. The aim is to set up a new municipal poverty policy for the years 2024-2028. Key points are simpler regulations, better, proactive communication from the municipality and more mutual trust between officials and residents on minimum income.
'Look at the schools'
Most political parties express appreciation for these principles but argue for a broader approach. Saloua Chaara (D66, the social liberal party): “Take a much more structural approach to preventing and combating poverty by working closely with employers, healthcare institutions, sports associations and, above all, education. Schools in particular have very good insight into poverty.” Fatumo Farah (GroenLinks, leftwing environmental party) would like special attention to women. “They are most at risk: women form most single-parent families and often work part-time, which is detrimental to their incomes and pensions.” Jacqueline Höcker (local party Good for Amstelveen) would welcome a special poverty fund or foundation. "Preferably through a public-private partnership, in which companies also participate. "
Kitty Huismans (local party ‘Burger Belangen Amstelveen’): “An integral long-term vision on poverty and minima is missing, it seems more like a patchwork of measures. For example, there is a big difference between structural and incidental poverty but I can't find that difference anywhere in this document.”
According to VVD (liberal party) councillor Victor Frequin, the municipality should use existing schemes much more effectively, instead of constantly starting new initiatives: “We must ensure that many more minima make use of the current schemes. By doing so, we also reduce child poverty!”
Limited playing space
Alderman Van Ballegooijen also wants to reach many more low-income people in the new poverty policy. “With the energy allowances, we now reach eighty per cent of the target group, that should also be the goal with the other schemes.” The PvdA (Labor Party) alderman stressed the financial possibilities.” For 2023, there is only 50,000 euros extra for poverty policy. Our room for manoeuvre is limited, also because spending on special assistance increases every year!”
Amstelveen municipal council discusses poverty policy on Wednesday 14 December
The Amstelveen municipal council will meet on Wednesday 14 December to discuss poverty policy. The central topic is the document 'Starting points policy plan poverty policy' presented by the municipal executive (''Burgemeester en Wethouders") on 22 November last. The new policy plan is to take effect on 1 January 2024 and runs for four years.
The council meeting starts as early as 6.40pm but it is not until around 8.30pm, the third item on the agenda, that it is the turn of the poverty policy. This debate will last until around 9.30 pm. Interested parties can attend the public council meeting in the council chamber of the town hall on Laan Nieuwer-Amstel 1 in Amstelveen. You can also follow the debate live on the internet via https://amstelveen.bestuurlijkeinformatie.nl/. On this website you will also find the full agenda and meeting documents (in Dutch). (Photo: www.amstelveenblog.nl.)
Keizer Karel College fills crates Food Bank
Pupils of Keizer Karel College in Amstelveen held a collection drive for the Voedselbank (Food Bank) in Amstelveen. This reports www.amstelveenweb.com of Saturday 10 December.
Pupils of all years, helped by teachers and parents, have filled over a hundred crates with foodstuffs over the past two weeks. Food Bank Amstelveen distributes these crates to families on minimum income.
The organisation was in the hands of the UNESCO student committee of Keizer Karel College, helped by the UNESCO coordinators and Junior Ambassadors of the secondary school. The promotion of this fundraiser was through posters and social media. At a collection point in the school building, students could hand in their products. After two weeks, all donations were sorted.
Food Bank Amstelveen is delighted with the support of the pupils. Over 120 families in Amstelveen depend on the Food Bank. This number is very likely to increase in the near future.
The Amstelveen schoolchildren found it valuable to be able to contribute to this action. "It always feels good to help people in need," said pupil Alissa. (Photo: KKC pupils at the crates collected for the Food Bank).
Benefits and allowances increase as of 1 January of 2023
The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has published the new amounts of all benefits and allowances as of 1 January 2023 via www.rijksoverheid.nl. In the new year, these rates increase proportionally with the statutory minimum wage going up by 10.5 per cent (from €1756.20 to €1934.40 gross per month). Minimum youth wages will also rise by the same percentage from 1 January. The Dutch government is further increasing child benefits due to all price increases for consumers.
The benefits and rates affected are the Participation Act, IOAW (Income Support Act for Older and Partially Disabled Unemployed Workers), IOAZ (Income Support Act for Older and Partially Disabled Former Self-Employed Workers), AOW (General Old Age Pensions Act), Anw (General Surviving Dependants Act), Wajong (Disability Provision for Disabled Young Persons Act), WW (Unemployment Insurance Act), WIA (Work and Income according to Labour Capacity Act), WAO (Disability Provision Act), Sickness Act and Supplementary Benefits Act. More information can be found at: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/ministerie-van-sociale-zaken-en-werkgelegenheid/documenten/publicaties/2022/12/05/uitkeringsbedragen-per-1-januari-2023
Higher allowance for 28,000 Amsterdam residents
Around 28,000 low-income Amsterdam residents will receive an extra allowance from the municipality this week. According to alderwoman Marjolein Moorman (Poverty Reduction and Debt Assistance), the subsistence security of these residents is under pressure due to the higher prices of food, energy and other basic needs.
The municipality of Amsterdam is doubling the so-called Individual Income Supplement for this vulnerable target group. This is an annual supplement for Amsterdam residents who have had a low income for at least three years and have no prospect of improving their financial situation. This year, single people will not receive 85 euros but 170 euros. Cohabitants will now receive 340 euros - instead of 170 euros - per household.
Amsterdam wants to support low-income residents now because many national support measures do not take effect until next year, Moorman said. (Source: Newspaper Het Parool, 6 December 2022).
Almost half of Dutch turn off heating
Almost half of the Dutch (47 per cent) are currently turning off the heating to save costs, even as the outside temperature drops. This reports Dutch research firm Ipsos today. The research firm conducted the survey between 25 and 28 November when maximum temperatures were around 10 degrees Celsius.
It is mainly low- (53 per cent of the total) and middle-income households (49 per cent) that save on their energy costs. Among high-income households, only 36 per cent turn off their heating. Ipsos does not rule out the possibility that some have switched to electric heating or wood-burning stoves.
Ipsos reports that saving on heating and energy costs has been a trend for some time. As of September 2022, around seventy per cent would have turned down their heating. "Even now that it is getting colder, saving Dutch people are so far persevering steadfastly," the research firm says.
The price cap on electricity and natural gas, which takes effect from January 2023, does not immediately assuage people's concerns, Ipsos said. For instance, only a quarter of Dutch people say that the introduction of the price cap has reduced their worries. (Photo: Het Nieuwsblad).
December 5, 2022
Keizer Karel College designs website for Amstelveen minima
The new website www.amstelveense-minima.nl was launched on Thursday 1 December at the 'Keizer Karel College' secondary school in Amstelveen. This accessible and colourful website is aimed at residents of Amstelveen who live at or below the poverty line or have income concerns.
December 1, 2022