After the damning report Unprecedented Injustice about the benefits affair and the subsequent fall of the Rutte III cabinet, the outgoing cabinet wants to take the first steps towards a recovery of the suffering that has been caused. Among other things, there must be a different supplement system and a government that does not discriminate. An overview of measures to prevent citizens from being seen as an enemy of the government.
“A black page in the history of the Dutch government”, which fills the cabinet “with a deep sense of shame”. With those words, the cabinet opens the response to the damning report on the childcare allowance affair. In the letter, the cabinet lists the efforts it wants to make in the coming period to prevent a recurrence.
The plans in short
- Contact with government must become more accessible
- More openness in decision-making and faster identification of errors
- Setting up a new benefits system
- Facing discrimination by the government
- Compensate affected parents
Compensation for duped parents
For the now caretaker government, compensating the parents affected by the benefits affair has “the highest priority”.
It was previously announced that the affected parents will already receive 30,000 euros to alleviate the worst needs. Files of parents who are entitled to higher compensation on top of that are still being processed.
The cabinet is also talking to creditors to ensure that that money does not have to be paid to them immediately.
Rutte already said that those who register for reimbursement before February 15 will receive the money before May 1.
Another system of benefits
In addition to compensating the parents, the allowance system whereby advance payments are first paid and subsequently checked must be completely overhauled. “Continuing as in the past is no longer possible”, Rutte writes.
The cabinet is of the opinion that the financing of childcare should no longer lie with parents and the eligibility conditions should be simpler. This intention is not new, because Prime Minister Rutte said a year ago that he wants to get rid of the allowance system and prepare alternatives. He writes in the letter on Friday that the cabinet wants to start working out a new system “as soon as possible”. However, it may take years before the allowance system is completely replaced by a new system, the letter states.
Getting rid of discrimination
In the tax authorities’ derailed fraud hunt, people with dual nationality were more strictly controlled by the tax authorities and were more often subject to unlawful fines and recoveries.
Civil servants were also guilty of discriminatory language. “The cabinet is fully aware that this trust has been deeply damaged by parents who have experienced discriminatory treatment.”
By removing the use of dual nationalities in drawing up the so-called risk profiles, the cabinet wants to prevent repetition. “Preventing discrimination and unauthorized use of data such as nationality is not just a matter of deleting data.”
The letter outlines a situation in the government where civil servants are insufficiently aware of discriminatory behavior. According to the cabinet, training is needed to make civil servants aware that the deployment of second nationalities without concrete suspicion entails “discriminatory aspects”.
Employees at the Tax and Customs Administration must be trained to handle personal data responsibly. Dialogue sessions are necessary to make it clear to civil servants “what constitutes a rule of law in day-to-day work practice at all levels of the organization”.
Duped parents who have been discriminated against by the tax authorities will receive additional compensation and a State Committee on Discrimination and Racism will be set up.
Faster detection of errors
“People should not ultimately be the victims of government mistakes,” the cabinet plans. “We have proved insufficiently able to listen to signals from parents, and from the practice of care providers and the judiciary. The warning from the National Ombudsman who reported the benefits problem in 2017 has also been unfairly ignored.”
The cabinet hopes that closer cooperation between different ministries will improve action. Other “executive organizations” of the government must also work more closely with policymakers and ministers.
Transparency in decision-making
The cabinet intends to provide better information to the House of Representatives. Members of Parliament who wanted to check the abuses at the Tax and Customs Administration from time to time made it impossible to carry out their work properly by leaking information and withholding files. This practice has come to be called the ‘Rutte doctrine’; a practice in which the prime minister withheld information about how a decision was reached.
Critics believe that this goes against the constitutional right of information to the House of Representatives.
The cabinet now wants it to be clearer how decisions were made. From now on, “personal policy views” are no longer a ground for not sharing information. More documents will be made public and it will be possible for the House to be informed by officials in technical briefings.
Mark Rutte cycles away from Huis ten Bosch Palace, where he has offered the king the resignation of the cabinet.
Contact with the government must become easier
In addition, it must become easier for people to speak to someone “of flesh and blood” at government agencies, instead of digitally reporting complaints or problems.
Again, the National Ombudsman warned against this in 2017, when a report showed that citizens were stuck in the government’s digital maze.
The government must become more accessible, Prime Minister Mark Rutte now writes. The cabinet wants to come up with counters where people can go with questions. “If people get stuck in this or get into trouble, there must be an employee with knowledge to help them and help them further.”