The patience of a large part of the House of Representatives has run out. The complaint: the help for children who have been placed out of home by parents who have been duped by the allowance affair is going too slowly. Yet the government asks for just that: patience.
Sighing, shaking no, sometimes crying. For example, parents of children placed out of home heard the debate about the affair in the House of Representatives yesterday. “Those people are distraught,” MP Pieter Omtzigt summed up.
Because in the aftermath of the benefits affair, it came to light that ‘remarkably many’ children of affected parents had been placed out of their homes over the years. Not infrequently, as it turned out, because the misery within families started after they were wrongly classified as benefit fraud. CBS counted 1,675 children who had been placed elsewhere between 2015 and 2021, 555 of them to this day.
In the House of Representatives there is criticism that, because the government sometimes seems to have been the instigator of all the misery, all matters should be reassessed much more quickly.
Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks): ,,We are fobbed off with visions for the future, action plans, but something just has to be done now.” Omtzigt also wonders ‘what has been done in recent months’. “The stories of parents go through marrow and bone. Sometimes they don’t even know where their child is. The cabinet comes with many promises and excuses, but there is no end to the misery in sight.”
What plays a role is that trust in the entire youth care system as a whole is already fragile. The latest count makes it clear that more than 37,000 children have been removed from their homes, while the House doubts whether this is necessary. And the out-of-home placements may not be unjustified on a case-by-case basis, but at the same time it rained fire letters from judges, the ombudsman and from youth care institutions with a gloomy conclusion: the system is rattling.
Judges sometimes decide whether children should be taken to safety on the basis of incomplete records. The waiting time in youth care is one year for many forms of assistance. And the assistance of a lawyer for parents who clash with the State is not properly arranged.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte wanted to go so far yesterday to acknowledge those shortcomings. The system has ‘vulnerabilities’, he said, youth care has ‘serious problems’. “Youth care does not function without problems. And so we are working on that as well.” Minister Franc Weerwind (Legal Protection) went a little further: “It beeps and creaks on all sides.”
For youth care as a whole, reforms are on the agenda, Rutte suggested. And there will be an investigation into the system of out-of-home placements. With regard to the children who have been removed from home, a special team will help them. Sometimes by re-establishing contact with the parents, preferably through reunification.
But that does not give the opposition in the House of Representatives much peace of mind. Ultimately, the specially set up team acts as a kind of mediator: often a judge will still have to be involved in family reunification. And that means it could take a long time – months, years – or so there are fears. And yes, the larger reform of the entire youth care system could improve the situation, but there will also be cuts from 2025, while the shortages are already large.
However, Rutte does not want to ‘add on it’. If the team does get “perseverance,” you “break into the system completely.” “That only leads to delays. Let’s give this solution a chance.” And the prime minister also does not want to hear about the fact that there will be a deadline on which all evictions will be reassessed. “We cannot promise those reassessments before a specific date. I’m not going to make empty promises here,” said Rutte.
“I think I can say that many MPs are not reassured,” Farid Azarkan (Denk) concluded.
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