The big municipalities are happy with the new ministerial position on poverty policy. City council members in various municipalities already have more experience with this portfolio and hope that the Minister will adopt a successful local anti-poverty policy.
Poverty is especially common in big cities. Municipalities are responsible for implementing the poverty policy, but now the government wants to do more. In the next four years, Intended Minister Carola Scotten, who will be visiting coordinator Mark Rutte today, wants to halve the number of poor children.
Michel Gross, Rotterdam Poverty Alleviation Local Council Member, is pleased that a Minister will soon have a special focus on poverty policy. “We’ve seen in Rotterdam that it works to give someone the coordinating role.” In 2016, one in four children in Rotterdam lived in poverty, and it is now one in six.
Since each municipality has its own poverty policy, it varies depending on the municipality in which assistance is available. Sometimes these differences are very painful, says Aldermann-Grauss. The family is then entitled to receive 2,000 euros in one location more than three kilometers away.
Amsterdam also has its own poverty policy with specific measures. For example, Amsterdam residents who have debt counseling will not receive bills until the issue is resolved. This removes stress and prevents new difficulties, such as mental problems and job losses, says Marjolin Moormann, a local poverty council member in Amsterdam.
She hopes that Scotten will introduce this “pause button” throughout the Netherlands. “This is one way to get people out of debt and poverty quickly.”
Rotterdam Alderman Gross also sees a lot of tension between people living in poverty. “That’s why you, as a government, have to be pressure sensitive,” he says. “If people don’t pay a bill or a fine, you can send an email, but you can also ask what they need from you.” This approach has worked: where people with financial problems previously often came out of municipal debt relief, now lose half of that amount.
Leeuwarden Municipal Council Member Hein Kuiken estimates that about 20 percent of his municipality’s residents find it difficult to make ends meet. It’s even as high as 50 percent in some neighborhoods. To prevent a new generation from growing up amid poverty, the policy in place in the Frisian capital is primarily aimed at young children.
“Unfortunately, we do very little for adults,” Kuiken says. “As a municipality, we would like to try debt cancellation, so that they no longer suffer from this daily stress, but can work on their future again.”
The new government allocates 500 million euros annually to reform the labor market and fight poverty and debt. City councilors hope that Scotten will not only address current poverty but also increase livelihoods in order to prevent new poverty. They fear that the amount is too low to achieve the goals.
“So she will have to work well with her colleagues to prevent poverty from happening,” Moorman says. Her colleague in Rotterdam Grouse: “Oral health care is not included in the basic package, so she has to discuss it with the Minister of Health. She has to talk to Justice and Security about fines and collection. My advice is: do it together and go with it. The whole Cabinet is to participate.”
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