Dutch government to assume debt of victims of benefit scandal
The cabinet has announced that it will assume the private debts of all the families affected by the child benefit scandal. State Secretary for Finance Alexandra van Huffelen said she wanted victims to be able to make a fresh start free from debt.
Families continue to face consequences of child benefit scandal
Back in January, the Netherlands’ childcare benefit scandal (toeslagenaffaire) came to a head as Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced he and his fellow cabinet ministers had decided to step down from their positions.
While many saw the move as a welcome attempt to take responsibility for past mistakes, the last few months have seen much debate as to how the Dutch government could make up for the impossible position thousands of families were put in as a result of mistakes made by government ministers and civil servants.
Victims of the scandal had already been promised 30.000 euros in compensation which the government had explicitly stated could not be seized by creditors, and any debts the families had with government organisations have already been written off. But the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) continued to place pressure on the cabinet to take action and suggested the cabinet assume the victims’ debts.
Dutch government to assume victims' debts
Van Huffelen’s announcement means that the private debts of around 20.000 people will now be taken over by the cabinet. The scheme will likely only come into effect in the autumn. Debts covered by the scheme will, for example, include money owed to landlords or energy providers, but will not cover mortgages or loans taken out to buy a car or a new TV.
Victims of the scandal will be asked to present a conclusive list of their debts to the cabinet, and municipalities will be able to help with drawing up the lists. Families will not be required to arrange matters with each creditor, as once the list has been presented the government will take over.
It’s not yet known exactly how much the scheme will cost the Dutch government, but Van Huffelen hopes to resolve the issue as soon as possible, with the aim being that victims will be able to use their 30.000 euros not to pay off debts, but for a fresh start. So far, victims have said the plan is a good step, but highlight that there are many uncertainties and many questions left unanswered.
Thumb: Frederic Legrand - COMEO via Shutterstock.