February 8, 2023

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Social assistance rules are getting looser: 'It's ridiculous how strict they are now'

Social assistance rules are getting looser: ‘It’s ridiculous how strict they are now’

Due to a combination of bad luck, setbacks, and special circumstances, 36-year-old Petra has been on welfare for six years. She maintains that she has to live on the bare minimum. “I get 1,000 euros a month. My fixed costs still have to be reduced from that. We have to charge 90 euros a week, the four of us.”

give up everything

However, she does not give up. Through a private agency, she has created her own in-house cupcake company. She loves baking, but is not allowed to put a dime of her income into her checking account.

Cruel and inhuman, you find the rules of luxury. “I have to live on the absolute minimum and I can’t accept anything. You have to give up everything,” says Petra. “Sometimes I also need something for the kids. New shoes, or a winter coat. Then I can happily turn to my parents, because I can’t accept the money,” she says in this video.

The Cabinet acknowledges that the rules are strict with regard to the welfare of more than 400,000 people. The debate gained momentum after the case of a woman from Wijdemeren who had to repay €7,000 in social assistance after accepting letters from her parents.

The side job should pay off

This is why Minister Carola Schotten (participant) has put in place new rules. Last summer she really made her first move, and now she’s setting the rules. For example, people who are entitled to social assistance will soon be able to receive donations of 1,200 per year without having to declare them. Donation rules still vary greatly from municipality to municipality. Those who receive Social Assistance benefits and also work part-time may also have something left over for a year: 15 percent of their income.

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The government believes that labor should be paid. Now people sometimes lose even if they start working on well-being. Less than 7 percent of those entitled to social assistance do some form of work. This costs the government 6.4 billion a year.

And more will change. People on social welfare who are currently providing informal care often have to report this to their municipality. Scotten believes that those who do informal care or volunteer work should no longer be penalized with reduced benefits.

You can’t go anywhere

Petra welcomes all forms of relaxation. “Because it’s as strict as it is now, it’s ridiculous. It’s so heavy. You can’t go anywhere. You really get the bottom line and you have to.”

Secretly she was already dreaming of her own cupcake company. “And that I earn enough not to depend upon the government. And that I am responsible for my own income. Because bread makes me very happy. It is the tastiest thing of all.”