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Lack of Dutch language may put welfare benefits at risk22 April 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
People who do not speak a basic level of Dutch after one year on welfare benefits (bijstand) and have refused to try to learn it may lose their allowance, according to a law currently being proposed.
The Dutch government has said previously that people should be able to speak a functional level of Dutch in order to claim welfare benefits, which is paid to people who either do not or no longer qualify for unemployment benefits (ww uitkering) or incapacity (wao) benefits.
Currently there are several hundred people in the Netherlands who speak barely a word of Dutch and are claiming welfare benefits, something the government wants to change.
This new bill, from Junior Social Affairs Minister Jetta Klijnsma, proposes that those whose level of Dutch is insufficient and who have not tried previously to study it will have 20 per cent cut from their benefit.
If they have still not started to learn Dutch after six months, their benefit will be reduced to 40 per cent of the total. Anyone who cannot speak Dutch after one year will lose it altogether.
Sufficient level of Dutch
The level of Dutch considered sufficient to claim welfare benefits is being able to conduce simple conversations about everyday things, or equivalent to international language level A2. This is the same currently required for the inburgeringsexamen, which is obligatory for non-EU citizens who are in the Netherlands on a residence permit.
Applicants will not need to take language test when they apply; they must do an intake interview with their municipality.
If the interviewer has doubts about the applicant’s language level and willingness to learn, they may decide to apply the 20 per cent decrease.
The law will not only apply to migrants, whether from inside the EU or out. The ruling coalition, who are behind the proposed bill, have agreed to apply the principal consistently, which means that it could in theory apply to people who only speak a dialect of Dutch.
If Parliament approves the law, it will come into effect next year.