Netherlands: Strict rules against welfare fraud are ruining lives

Strict rules against welfare fraud ruin lives

The Dutch Parliament in The Hague. According to the investigative commission, the rules against welfare fraud were passed by deputies and the courts failed to protect citizens’ legal rights. photo

© Christophe Gateau/dpa

A commission that investigated alleged social welfare fraud in the Netherlands came to a remarkable conclusion: the three branches of government were blind to people and the law.

The According to the report of a commission of inquiry, the Netherlands has ruined the lives of many citizens with tough rules against welfare fraud. A parliamentary commission of inquiry concluded that fundamental rights were violated and the rule of law was ignored. The committee presented its report in The Hague. “In a hardened political and social climate, the three branches of government were blind to people and law, ruining lives.”

The commission interviewed numerous ministers, officials and citizens last year. The reason was an unprecedented affair over child benefits, in which tens of thousands of people were wrongly labeled as fraudsters and put in great financial distress. Parliament then launched a more comprehensive investigation into the action against so-called welfare fraudsters.

To date, human errors have quickly been judged as fraud, the commission found. A nationality other than Dutch is also seen as a risk factor. “This violated the right to equal treatment,” the report says. Criticism is not only directed at the authorities, but also at Parliament and the judiciary. Representatives passed bad laws and courts did not protect citizens’ legal protection. The rules would have to be changed immediately.

With the tough regulations, the state has deprived people of their dignity, the commission explained. This was often about people with little money who needed support. “People who needed the state the most were hit the hardest.”


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