In order to give children and young people affected by the Allowance Affair a dignified future again, more is needed than just money. The government must listen to their needs and then provide tailor-made solutions. That is, in summary, an urgent advice from emeritus professor of public administration and former top civil servant Roel in ‘t Veld, which was sent to the House of Representatives this Friday.
At the request of former State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Supplements, D66), In ‘t Veld issued advice on the ‘recovery operation’ for children who got into trouble because the Tax and Customs Administration seriously duped their parents. To this end, he conducted interviews with a large group of stakeholders – from employees of agencies and ministries to young people themselves.
The result, explains In ‘t Veld via a video link, is a plea to put people back at the center of policy formulation. “No calculation rules that determine what is fair, but take into account unique situations. We have lost that in our society.”
How has the Allowance Affair affected the lives of children and young people?
“The group is extremely varied and that also applies to the nature and extent of the damage. There may be problems with housing or education, debt, or physical or mental health. I can mention two stories that are illustrative: one is of a 9-year-old boy who was recently arrested for stealing everything that was loose and stuck and hid the belongings in a secret place. When asked why he did that, he replied, “Then we’ll have some when the government comes along.” The other story is of a boy who went to work at 15 to reduce his parents’ debts. He is now 25. He broke off his education and never picked up again.”
What helped the injured youngsters the most?
“First of all, they have to come out of the current situation full of wounds and mistrust. There may be heavy curtains that block the view of the future, for example because someone is full of fear, is in debt or is homeless. These are urgent matters that must be resolved first. After that, I think that in many cases there is a need for training perspective. That does not always have to mean that someone has to follow a course, it can also be training-on-the-job or a year of paid leave to think about the future in peace.”
The financial compensation – depending on their age, victims of children and young people will probably receive between 2,000 and 10,000 euros this year – is just a start. All those involved with whom he spoke agree about this, says In ‘t Veld. What the government will mainly need to work on is reducing deep-seated mistrust. According to In ‘t Veld, a condition for this is that governments form a unity and ‘never, ever’ again give unclear or contradictory instructions, as has happened until now.
Also read: First debts due to the Allowances affair, then child placed out of home
How should that be done in practice?
“What I propose is to offer everyone who needs it a companion, a person employed by the municipality who guides him or her. Someone who is able to make decisions and knows where to turn for specific problems. Municipalities will have to ensure personal contact with all victims. The government must finance and facilitate all necessary activities.”
You notice that the damage caused to young people is still increasing every day. Why has the recovery not been accelerated?
“The government cannot do that, not with the traditional management style. The government thinks: we must first make rules. Working out a financial arrangement has been given priority. Despite all the good intentions, the pace of recovery is slow. Many plans and initiatives have been developed without overarching management. This advice is aimed at providing a clear structure and putting an end to uncertainty.”